MacKenzie Speaks: Summer is here!

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

I couldn’t wait for summer to get here. Bugs, garter snakes, mornings in the swinging lawn chair, lots of late afternoons in the garden…

Hot cat
Ugh… why is it so hot?

How am I supposed to chase bugs? This is all Yellow Boy’s fault, I’m just sure of it. The Mother of Cats says that this is record-breaking heat, whatever that means. I just want it to cool off enough to whap a couple of grasshoppers. Is that too much to ask?

Cat
Why do I get blamed for EVERYTHING?

Anyway, happy summer everyone. The Mother of Cats and I will be spending as much time as we can taking it easy in the swinging lawn chair…

Cat and owner in lawn chair
Aren’t I handsome?

…and when I’m not patrolling to ensure Enemy Cat isn’t in the yard I’ll be on the lookout for moths and hopping things. Hey, summer is for cats!

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats: yesterday we set a new heat record in Denver, Colorado, and today we missed the record by a single degree; it is so bad I have to carry the cats in as they refuse to cross the hot deck. We are all outside in the mornings while I drink my latte, water the plants and do a little knitting, then it is inside for weaving, knitting, and cat naps.

Rose
Luckily the roses are loving the heat, and the tomatoes are growing like weeds.

Happy summer everyone.

MacKenzie Speaks: Rolling in the Warp!

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

MacKenzie
The weather has been really nice this week and the Mother of Cats and I have been spending mornings out in the yard before the thunderstorms come in the afternoon.

This week the Mother of Cats put all of her knitting away so she could start working on a NEW CAT TOY for me and Yellow Boy. Actually, Yellow Boy is afraid of it, so this new cat toy is all for me.

Warp on loom.
Look at this! Isn’t that the best thing you’ve ever seen? She spent a whole day putting these little yarns (she calls them warp… whatever…) over this board so that I could roll in the pile on the floor. I can’t believe that she cares this much…
Cat attacking warp.
She even put a chair in front of the yarns so that I could easily whap them with my paw!
Cat
What? Whatever are you talking about? I’m not hurting these at all. I’m always careful with my toys…
Cat
OK, you don’t have to make a big deal about it….¬†
Cat
The Mother of Cats can be so emotional. I’ve talked about this before, but I do feel that it is a flaw in her character. I was just looking…
Warp on loom.
… and she tied all of my yarns up into little bows so I couldn’t play with them any more. I never realized that the Mother of Cats could behave in such a petty manner!
Woven fabric on the loom.
Now she is completely ignoring me and playing with the yarns all by herself. Hey, this was MY TOY!!! First an Enemy Cat moves into my yard, and now this! She even keeps sitting in my chair. I really don’t understand how she can behave this way. If there wasn’t a thunderstorm outside I would go away and just ignore her. Bad Mother of Cats!

In the late afternoons after the thunder stops the Mother of Cats and I get to go outside to water and chase bugs. Maybe she isn’t so bad after all, even though she seems to have a problem sharing her toys.

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats: I received a commission to make these cotton dish towels a few weeks ago, so after I finished up with the major yard work I pulled out the loom and got her dressed again. Gosh, I have missed weaving. Anyone want a dish towel? Is it too soon to put on a Christmas colored warp?

Knit on, my friends, unless of course you are weaving this week. ūüôā

The WIP basket is empty!

It took a month, but look at what has happened:

Cat in empty WIP basket.
MacKenzie has a new toy!

Yep. This is an event of such astonishing rarity it makes a blue moon seem common: every single one of the languishing items hanging out in the WIP basket has been finished. The basket is now empty. MacKenzie was all astonishment for at least 20 seconds before he moved in to make the basket his own. It took the whole month of May, but I now have all of my needles and stitch markers back where they belong.

Socks.
Arent these cute? I love the way the lace pattern switches on the socks to make a mismatched pair. ¬†It wasn’t too bad keeping the different lace patterns under control as a different needle is used on each side of the sock. This pattern is Milfoil by Rachel Coopey. My project notes are here.
Cowl
The moebius cowl that I was working on is also done. Like my model?
Stitch close-up.
Moebius knitting is really fun. I started with Cat Bordhi’s cast on and then knit from the center outward in garter ¬†and blackberry stitch that I had to modify a little to accommodate the circular ¬†knitting and my stiff hands. Because this is a moebius the right side has the “up” side of the blackberry pattern, and the left has the “down” side.
Cowl
When worn the shape allows the wearer to fold the cowl with the same pattern on both sides.
Stitch detail.
This is the same cowl with the other side up. I like them both. If the cowl is doubled up or worn draped around the shoulders both patterns show.

I took really good notes while knitting this time so that I can post the pattern in my next blogging adventure. If you want more info you can find my project notes here. That yarn is Tosh Merino DK in the colorway NIght Hawk. I was worried about how it would knit up, but I like the finished project.

I’m off to cast on a shawl using yarn from the stash and a pattern a friend gave me.

MacKenzie, get out of that basket!

The Scleroderma Chronicles: Year 2.5

Wow. How quickly time flies. It has now been two and a half years since I was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease¬†limited systemic sclerosis (AKA scleroderma), and I joined the rare disease club. When last I reported on my progress I was at the end of a tough year; lung disease, oxygen, a referral to palliative care, gastroparesis, and constant pain. I was having trouble walking and my stomach was really acting up; I was losing weight at the rate of a pound a week. Ugh. I was somewhat upbeat by the end of the second year since I was off oxygen, but still, things weren’t really all that great.

Mitts and bracelet
Look at the cute mitts I made in teal, the color of scleroderma. I got that bracelet last fall at a scleroderma patient education conference that loaded me up with lots of great information.

What a difference six months can make. A change in medication made my Raynaud’s much easier to handle. I started doing yoga (carefully) a few months ago and added tart cherry extract as an anti-inflammatory that I can tolerate better than traditional NSAIDs. I bought shoes that felt better on my feet (Haflinger clogs) and got serious with stretching exercises for the plantar fasciitis¬†I developed due to tightening on the bottoms of my feet. I switched to a gastroparesis diet that is mostly easy-to-digest, low fiber foods (got to love pasta and yogurt to do this one…) and began to add some blended ¬†fruits and veggies. My weight loss stopped and I started to gain back some weight. My skin has started to loosen up on my right arm (scleroderma literally means “hard skin” as the most obvious symptom is thick, hard skin that develops as the result of systemic scarring), which is pretty darn exciting! ¬†Over the last six months my energy has been slowly coming up and I have been managing with less pain; I can even walk normally! I’m breathing better and I rarely need to use the rescue inhaler. There was a Sjogren’s flare, but still, things are better.

I just finished making the latest round of testing and doctor visits, and I have to say, it is pretty exciting to visit with happy smiling doctors. My pulmonologist was almost giddy! My lungs and heart have maintained (scleroderma damage tends to be forever…) with almost no new damage; I am right at the edge of trouble, but I’m not there yet. I have good blood work, and even had the first NORMAL kidney function test in over 5 years. My red blood cell count is back down in normal range, and my muscle strength has improved so much I can now easily push shopping carts. ¬†It seems that the increased dosage of immunosuppressants has turned the tide and I am stable. STABLE!! What a wonderful word that is.

I will continue with all of my current drugs for now and there will be more testing in a year, but it is clear that I have definitely pulled up from the nose dive that they through I was in a year ago.

Life is good.

Back to knitting!!

 

MacKenzie Speaks: a little this, a little that…

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Handsome Cat
Have you been missing me?

The Mother of Cats and I have been very busy. May is always one of our favorite months as we can finally move back out into the yard to begin summer living in earnest. Here’s a little update on all that we have been up to:

Flowers
The Mother of Cats cleaned the garage and then went out and bought all of these flowers for Yellow Boy and me…
Roses and flowers
but then she put them all into the front yard! I’m not allowed in the front yard. These are at the front window
Flowers
…and these wax begonias and the alyssum are along the front walk. I love laying down in alyssum; don’t you? Why doesn’t she let me out front!! I think that it is high time that I threw a cat tantrum. She just doesn’t know how lucky she is!! Lots of people would just kill to have an alyssum-loving cat like me!
Cat and toys
Or I could just sadly dig around in my toy basket. Sniff. I’m not sure she loves me…
Necklace
As soon as she got those flower into the ground it rained. Serves her right!! We stayed inside and made this little cat toy necklace together out of some stitch markers she made last week. See all of my cat fur in the picture? Funny, she didn’t add it to my basket the way I thought she would…
Bricked Garden
After days of rain it was time to move into the back. Do you remember Darwin’s Garden and the evil purple spiky flower? The plant that took over the garden and killed all of the other plants? I totally thought that old purple had won the fight, but look at what the Mother of Cats did to it… she dropped almost 800 pounds of brick on top of the plant, covering the whole garden, and then moved our garden swing on top. Hey. This is nicer anyway because now we’re in the shade!
Cat in swinging chair
Ha ha, purple plant! We win!
Rose Cuttings
She even took some cuttings from the Darwin rose before she dropped the bricks. They are going to a new Darwin’s Garden.
Cat
While we were out moving bricks (hey, I wanted to help. Why does she get upset when I’m in her way?) the cat next door came to visit. I don’t like him. I call him Enemy Cat. The Mother of Cats calls him Dobby after some Harry Potter character. Whatever.
Cat
I still keep my eye on him when he visits. He lives with the dogs next door, and if I get too close to him they bark. Hey. They have some nerve. This is MY YARD!!
Weeds
The Mother of Cats finally poked him with the hose and chased him of. I like her style! We moved on to weed another flower bed. This garden has 5 rose bushes in it. Can you see them?
Flowers
Oh, there they are!
Cat
There’s more gardens to weed, but the Mother of Cats has to buy more soil and flowers… That means we get to hang out in the swinging chair. That’s better anyway, because that way she spends more attention to me. Except when she tries to knit out here. I put a stop to that right away. Outside is for cats!!!

Next week we are going to put up the loom and start weaving. Woohoo!! You haven’t lived until you have put a warp on a loom with the Mother of Cats! This is more fun than a Christmas tree. Yarn chomping is tame compared with the fun of rolling in the warp!

Stay tuned. Next week should be a big one.

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats: I also finished up every single WIP last month and completed the latest round of doctor visits and testing, but those will be new posts. I’m still trying to catch MacKenzie sleeping in the empty WIP basket. Every time I get up to get the camera he thinks I’m handing out cookies and comes running… rotten spoiled cat…

Cleaning out the WIP basket

There is nothing more that I like than working my way through a big project. What can be more exciting than finishing that new sweater or gigantic, endless, Find Your Fade shawl after watching it slowly grow day after day, week after week from a pile of skeins to a beautiful finished project? The drama of the whole thing: is there enough yarn, will the colors go together, is my gauge correct, yarn chicken, and all the other questions and worries of the large project are part of the fun.  A little stressful, but a labor of love, each and every one.

So, it was a little bit of teeth gritting that I pulled out the basket of unfinished projects (UFOs) down from the top of the bookshelf a couple of weeks ago.

Basket
My goodness. Now I know where all of my knitting needles have been hiding out. 

I wrote about cleaning up the UFO pile a year or so ago and got trolled by people who hoped I was writing about aliens. Nope. I guess I should follow Ravelry’s lead and call them WIPs. Fine. This is the WIP (works in progress) basket.¬†It is full of smaller knitting projects that should get done in a couple of knitting days each. Check it out:

WIPs
There is a half pair of socks (I did cast on the second sock, but I still put it aside…), and three pairs of fingerless mitts.¬†
UFOs
I also found a scarf that was half done and a cowl that had just been cast one night when I was curious about how that great Night Hawk colorway from MadelineTosh would knit up.

Well, how long can all of this take? Time to jump in and clear the basket, I told myself. I pulled out the socks (hey, it was snowing outside!) and got started.

Yarn Chomp
MacKenzie helped as much as he could. 

Now, after two weeks of steady work and cat entertainment I am happy to report that I have made real progress. The basket is almost empty, needles and stitch markers are returned to their proper places, and I have gained a number of small knitted accessories.

Finished knitted items
Here they are. I have finished a shawlette, the socks, two small pairs of fingerless mitts, and a pair of long beaded fingerless mitts. 
Socks
The yarn in these socks made them turn out really cute. This simple pattern for a vanilla sock with deep ribbing at the top and a traditional heel is called “Dave” by Rachel Coopey.
Mitts
The long mitts are Akiko MItts by Sivia Harding and the short mitts are my own simple “Scleroderma MItts” pattern that I recorded in the project notes here.
Shawlette
The finished shawlette is the Riverbed Shawlette (this is MacKenzie’s favorite) by Grace Akhrem.¬†I wore it this week to my knitting group and it was quite a hit.¬†

Now I’m down to the last item in the basket, a cowl. Wow. I thought that this may take me all month, but I should have the basket cleared by the end of the week. Well, there was that one pair of socks that I couldn’t help casting on while I was working on the WIPs, but still, the end is in sight.

Excellent. I have some large projects all kitted up and ready to go.

Wait until you see these sweaters and shawls I’ve got lined up!

Have a good weekend everyone!!

Shawl Study: A Trio of Fades

 

What can I say? A few months ago I was sucked into the “Find Your Fade” ¬†(by Andrea Mowrey) vortex and spent days and days dreaming of color combinations for shawls. I shopped the stash over and over putting different color combinations together. I agonized over strategies to make the colors work in the shawl; should the colors be connected across the shawl (like a quilt) or just cleanly feed into the next color in the sequence. What would happen if I used¬†monochromatic colors? Would it work to use colors more than once to continue to anchor the shawl? Why did I not have more speckled yarn in my stash?

This got to be really bad. I would get out of bed in the night to hunt for a skein that I suddenly thought about. I settled on color sequences again and again only to abandon some of the yarns that I loved the most. I took yarns to the LYS to get help from my friends. More skeins were bought and I finally settled down with three sets of yarn hopping up and down demanding to be made into one of these shawls.

I took pictures of the yarn sequences and wrote the knitting order onto the labels of the yarn. I started the Ravelry project pages and committed to the Fade study project. Early in February I cast on the first one, and late last week I finished the three shawl project.

Shawls
Here they are!

So what did I do different with these three shawl? Check out each shawl’s story below.

Shawl Collage
The first¬†Fade out of the gate…

This shawl really put me through the wringer. I had some great fall-colored yarn from Dream in Color, so I decided to use it to center the shawl. Every yarn that I used matched to the Dream yarn (the middle yarn¬†between the red and purple in the close-up shots above), and to make it all work I used two skeins of that yarn to make two sequences. I started knitting with a lovely brown, and then ripped it all out, bought a dark red Tosh merino light called Heartheat, and used that instead. Later on I tossed out another yarn that I just loved and used the Heartbeat again in the middle of the shawl to keep the continuity with the Dream yarn. At the end of the shawl I had used only 5 colors of yarn and tossed out even more contenders. I think I needed to stop thinking about the concept of a “Fade” and did better concentrating on what would make a truly lovely and useful shawl for me. My Ravelry notes and yarn sequence is here.

Shawl Collage
March knitting found me hard at work on the second Fade.

The second shawl was so easy to put together. I had three amazing silk/alpaca yarns in ¬†shades of gold, brown and deep red that I bought at the Interweave Yarn Fest last year. They went¬†nicely together, but they were really¬†monochromatic. Digging in the stash I quickly found a blue that wanted to play with the golden-brown yarn, and the dark gray yarn linked cleanly to the blue. Great. I had 5 yarns, and wasn’t quite sure how to link them. Oh, wait. Speckled yarns!! I looked at Tosh Merino Light online and realized that skeins of Yoko and Marfa would make the transitions work cleanly. Ta-daa. Not¬†a gradient, but every yarn gets along with the ones next to it. This shawl is great with almost everything that I wear, and even better I never questioned my color choices while knitting it; no struggles or dashes back to the LYS. My Ravelry notes and the yarn order are here.

Shawl Collage
April knitting was the fun spring/summer shawl. 

My last shawl¬†is the one that is most like a “Fade” in that the colors cleanly connect from each skein to the next, but there is a lot of continuity between the colors across the shawl. ¬†The difference in the textures of the shawl yarns became another type of study as I knitted. The Alegria was wonderfully squishy and bouncy. I loved the way the Dream in Color Jilly showed off the lace (the detail in the picture above with MacKenzie’s paw on it) and while the color of the Hedgehog Fibers yarn was beautifully rich, it was a nightmare to knit as it had the life of string and was splitty to boot. The Ravelry notes and yarn order is here.

So, there they are.

Shawls
Now that you’ve¬†“met”each shawl, here they are again without those flowers in the way. Each is unique and I’m so happy that I made all three of them. I am, however, done with shawls for awhile.

Yep. Time to get to work on finishing up all my little (emphasis on little) abandoned projects that have been lurking in a basket waiting for me to get back to them. No more shopping the stash for awhile. No decisions. All I have to do is pull out a bag with the yarn, pattern and half finished item and get to work. Even better, these are quick to finish projects like socks, mitts and scarfs. Woohoo! Compared to knitting these shawls it is almost like instant gratification.

MacKenzie is looking forward to having my lap all to himself again, too.

Have a great weekend everyone.