FO Friday: Week 3, Year 2019

MacKenzie has slept through most of the knitting this week, so I am going to have to post my progress in my own “voice” this week.

Sleeping MacKenzie.
Actually, the only time that I have been able to knit this week has been while he was sleeping.

I think that it is the weather. It snowed over the weekend and the days were gloomy. I had to do errands this week which left him home alone for too many hours; ocicats do not tolerate alone time well. He still misses his brother Yellow Boy. Anyway, when he was up it was all “pet the cat!” all the time. He had absolutely no interest in the knitting or yarn chomping; instead he just climbed on me, head butted my hands to make me pet him and ran his purr engine on high. He is so cute about it the knitting went away each time he showed up at my knitting chair. So, no knitting with cat pictures this week.

In spite of the needy MacKenzie I did get a lot accomplished over the week. Check this out!

Stitch detail of the cowl.
I cast on and started on a Clinkerbell Cowl for myself over the weekend. This MCN DK yarn (another Western Sky Knits score from the Estes Park Wool Market this summer) is just a joy to knit with.
Finished cowl.
By Tuesday I had the cowl done and steam blocked. I just love, love, love this piece and plan to take it out shopping in the snow this afternoon. My Ravelry project notes are here.

I also pulled out a languishing WIP and got knitting on it again. I have several skeins of Brown Sheep yarn that I have had stashed for over 10 years. Now that I am attacking the stash I have pulled myself together and am knitting steadily on this sweater to get it done while it is still cold outside.

Start of sweater.
This is a single ply wool/mohair yarn that is going to be a workhorse for me in this sweater. Can’t you just feel the cushy warmth coming right at you through the picture? You can, can’t you! That’s what I’m talking about.
Progress on my sweater.
Look at how far I got this week!

This sweater is the Daelyn Pullover by Isabell Kraemer, and the second one that I’ve made so I know that it is going to be the perfect warm sweater for casual wear. Okay, let’s be honest. That is just about every day for me these days as I am all about layered wooly comfort that will keep my Raynaud’s under control. This sweater is going to be seeing a lot of wear for sure, hopefully for years to come. My Ravelry project notes are here.

So how am I doing on the 2019 yarn stash challenge? I used up another three skeins of yarn this week!! I am now up to a grand total of 6 skeins for the year; only 44 more to go.

Have a good weekend everyone.

MacKenzie Speaks: Finished Objects

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Sad Cat
Do you see how sad I an? I was placed into time out for sleeping in the Mother of Cats new shawl. I just kneaded it with my claws a little bit…
Cat sleeping in shawl.
It is a wonderful shawl! Soft and so warm. This shawl has cashmere and silk in it with the merino. Perfect for a little cat nap, but the Mother of Cats was all NOPE!! and took me off.  Why is the Mother of Cats so mean to me?
Close up of shawl.
Do you see those nice colors? They are just perfect with my fabulous coat of fur.
Finished shawl.
I guess it looks okay on a human, but it is much better as a bed for me, don’t you think?
Shawl start
She also had this last little shawl to finish from Christmas…
Christmas shawl.
Nice, Mother of Cats. A little late, don’t you think? Typical human laziness. She should have devoted more time to me since she was going to be late anyway.

It is snowing outside today and the Mother of Cats and I have been working on her plants and have started some new knitting projects. I can’t wait to tell you all about what we have been up to.

After a nap.

And some cookies!

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • The first shawl is called Color Study and it is knitted with two different yarns from Western Sky Knits. This is the softest shawl that I now own; the knitted fabric is just fabulous! You can find my project notes here.
  • The Christmas colored shawl is another Close to You and the yarn is made from Brew City Premium Draft Sock in the colorway “Silver Bells” . Fast, easy, simple pattern that I’m love wearing for a little warmth in the cold weather. My project notes are here.
  • These two projects used up 3 skeins of yarn. Only 47 left to meet my goal for the year.

Yarn Stash Resolution

So, there is a thing about my stash that you should know… it is bigger than some yarn stores I have been in. Seriously, there is a lot of yarn in there.

Yarn stash.
It is all crammed into a closet attached to the spare bedroom. The main yarn is in the bins. The drawers contain other craft supplies, fabric, roving, and handspun yarn. And some other yarns that I couldn’t get into the bins. I don’t want to talk about it. There’s no problem here. Really.
Cat
Mother of Cats, you have a problem…

The big mess built up this fall as I knitted like crazy from multiple projects organized into separate bins; the leftovers of the projects and new purchases of yarn just began to pile up in bins on the floor of the stash closet. Yarn stored on the shelves became mixed up and some bins were only half full.

Yarn
Time to sort all of that yarn into some semblance of order again…

I’m not going to be too defensive here, but it is hard to sort this much yarn into meaningful groupings.  I like to sort the yarn by weight, and then into some system based on color or other attribute. MacKenzie and I spent a couple of hours getting the bins sorted again and labeled, and then back onto the shelves they went.

Yarn stash.
Look at how tidy all of it looks now! The stack of now emptied bins can be seen at the top right. Finally, I can see the floor again.

This is a lot of yarn, but I have to be honest here: four of the bins are filled with the leftovers of previous projects. You know, yarn scraps. The yarn for scrappy blankets, socks, and multicolored works. I want to make arm warmers that match some of my larger (faded) shawl projects. I’m thinking a big Stephen West marled sweater project is in the future. I just can’t let any of those scraps go… What if I need to repair a project from 10 years ago or knit a new finger onto a pair of loved, but damaged, gloves (true story!)? I’m pretty sure I could weave some nice, funky fabric for pillows…

The rest is new yarn. Bins of yarn. What is in the bins, you ask? Well… here are some of the titles:

  • All the Greys
  • Blacks and Brights
  • Yarns that are Loved Beyond All Reason
  • Autumn Yarns
  • Western Sky Knits
  • Chasing Rabbits
  • Blue/Green Yarns
  • Zauberballs and Gradients
  • Lace Yarn (Lots of Mohair)

Then there are the bins that are just known as “Worsted” or “Fingering” or “Mitts”. Three of the bins are holding the yarn for single sweater projects. Two bins have yarn for Christmas projects. I need all of this yarn. Really, I do.

Which brings me to reflection and resolutions. I love all of this yarn, but it is time to think about reducing the size of the stash. Some of it has been given away, and some of it has already been organized into new projects that I will knit this coming year. I thought of limiting myself to only stash knitting, but that is beyond hope; sometimes you just need that additional perfect skein to make a sweater work.  Endless socks will be arriving as I knit my way through all of the Chasing Rabbits bin. Charity knitting is in my future. Still, how to measure progress?

2018 Knitting Projects
It was a busy year! Shawls, socks, gnomes, and sweaters galore!

Last year I completed 39 projects. Some of them were little (mitts and gnomes), and others were large like the What the Fade?! shawl and the sweaters. I guess I could just decide to complete a number of projects like I did last year, but the problem is the stash; I should focus on the stash!

I have decided to try to knit at least 50 skeins of yarn out of the stash this year. I have been going crazy working out the rules for this… do I measure skeins or grams of yarn. Do I make adjustments for different weights of yarn? Ugh. This is where I am:

  • A skein is a skein. I won’t consider the weight of the yarn.
  • If I buy new yarn that is added to the stash, I need to deduct that number of skeins from my total.
  • Yarn that is bought for a project using stash yarn is neutral as it was consumed in that project. I will just deduct the yarn removed from the stash, not the new yarn.
  • If only half of the skein is used, it counts as only one half! More than half is counted as a skein.
  • I’m going to make a spreadsheet to track the yarn. I can do this!

Last night I cast on a sweater using worsted weight yarn that was lurking in the stash. Hey. It will go fast. I’ll use up a bunch of skeins. I won’t have to buy any more yarn. It’s a plan.

Happy New Year Everyone!

The Scleroderma Chronicles: Invisible (Star) Wars

I’m a big fan of the movie Star Wars. Seriously. I remember the first time that I saw this movie; we stood in line for hours, laughed at the droids, were amazed by the special effects, wished we had the Force, held our breath as the tension at the end of the movie mounted, and cheered wildly when the Death Star blew up. Over the next year we watched the movie 13 times in the theater, memorized the sound tract, and to this day I hear snippets of dialogue echoing in my mind…

Star WarsLike this line said by the droid C-3PO to his buddy R2-D2 as they escaped from their badly damaged and captured ship to carry out a secret mission as directed by Princess Leia:  “That’s funny, the damage doesn’t look that bad from out here.”

Author
Bundled up in wool and staying warm. You can’t see my stage 3 kidney disease, interstitial lung disease, struggling gastric and intestinal organs, burning muscles, painful joints, brain fog, and my truly astonishing fatigue.

That’s me. Badly damaged on the inside, not that bad on the outside.  The curse of all people who have an invisible illness. People often say, when they learn about my illness, something along the lines of… “Well, you look great!” It’s nice to hear, but it also suggests that I’m not really that sick.  I can’t help but feel that they think that I am an attention-seeking hypochondriac. Sigh.

Raynaud's
You have to admit, the visible symptoms are really subtle. It can be as little as lost circulation in a finger: Raynaud’s phenomenon. What can’t be seen is that I’m also experiencing circulation loss in my lungs, kidneys, brain and other organs.
Edema on arm.
A poor dietary decision can hit me hard: dizziness, muscle pain and edema in my arms. I ate cheese enchiladas at my favorite restaurant this time.

It is amazing, really. How can the damage not look that bad from out here? I struggle for air. I often lack the energy to get through basic tasks. Pain stalks me waiting for a poor decision on my part that will give it an opening.  An incoming weather front pushes me over a cliff. Holidays can be the worst as I struggle to manage my energy resources, diet and exposure to cold. I can get through the Christmas dinner okay, but the next two days are spent in bed sleeping myself back to functionality.

And yet, I’m starting the New Year feeling pretty darn chipper, well… as chipper as you can after a 12 hour nap and a strong latte to launch myself into motion. See, I can get back to functionality. I’m on great drugs and I have wonderful doctors. My latest round of medical testing shows that I am tolerating my drugs well, and my disease progression has virtually ground to a halt. I am making some gains. I spend a lot of time managing my symptoms and hoarding energy resources, but I am not getting worse. Some really scary words on my chart have gone away over the last year: chronic respiratory failure, pulmonary arterial hypertension, and severe kidney disease are no longer there. I have wonderful friends and supportive family members. I am still independent and can get out to social events.

MacKenzie the cat.
I have the world’s bossiest cat to tend to me…
Rose.
and my indoor roses are blooming.

The rose bush is also struggling and covered with mildew. Sigh. It’s like a metaphor for my life. Bloom where you can, and pretend that all this other damage isn’t happening over there… Jedi mind tricks can be useful when dealing with implacable enemies like scleroderma and mildew.

Use the Force! I hear in my mind. If you know the movie Star Wars and the other movies in the series, it is a tale of heroic underdogs battling against great and evil foes, desperate times, hope and change.

I don’t have a light saber, but I have knitting needles.

I don’t have the Force (an invisible energy field created by all living things), but I have an online and real network of people and other living things that connect to me and support me. I have science and time on my side: new drugs are on the way and some of them are in new rounds of clinical trials. Remember the movie poster? A New Hope. Yep. Every year brings me a new edition of hope.

My illness is mostly invisible. The battle is real. Bring it on, 2019, I am ready for you!

Cat

Footnote: Perhaps you are wondering… whatever does she have? I was diagnosed with Limited Systemic Sclerosis and Sjogren’s Syndrome in 2014, and those two conditions carry with them a host of complicating conditions such as Raynaud’s, colitis, gastroparesis, interstitial lung disease, kidney disease, heart disease, oh my lord, and a partridge in a pear tree. In 2016 I was referred to palliative care and told to make final plans; Myfortic (CellCept) saved the day and I was discharged from palliative care a few months later. In 2018 my rheumatologist added fibromyalgia to the list and there is an ongoing discussion about dermatomyositis. Why do these autoimmune diseases throw parties and invite all of their friends?  It’s like the bar at Mos Eisley Spaceport with all the strange aliens.  As Obi-Wan tells Luke, “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.” I don’t have a blaster, but I think that in this case the drug Myfortic will do the job!

All the Christmas Knitworthies

I’m an addict. Seriously, I need to belong to a support group… oops… that’s literally what my Wednesday morning group meeting is, only those guys support me to buy more yarn, tools, patterns, cookies… Anyway, my name is Midnight Knitter, and I am addicted to knitting. The gateway drug was crochet, but once I got my hands on knitting needles I was gone. I was only eight years old, but the path of my life was already determined; yarn and I would be best buds forever. These days I spin it, dye it, weave it, but mostly I knit with yarn. A lot. A day without knitting is an ugly thing…

Here’s the central truth of my knitting; I will knit many, many sweaters, mitts, dishcloths, and other items of use, but I do hate to part with anything if it isn’t going to a good home. You know, the chunk of knitted love should go to someone who will appreciate it, use it, and maybe even love it a little too. In a word, a person who is knitworthy. Someone who will thank me for the gift. Someone who will give that knitted piece of me a good home. Someone who will take the time to thank me and let me know that they will use their hand knit.

I knitted a lot of Christmas gifts this year. Superwash merino, cashmere, silk and even yak slipped through my fingers, looped over the needles, and grew into fabric that I hoped would bring joy to the person I was creating it for. As Christmas approached the items were wrapped with care, stuffed into boxes, and mailed off to recipients. Little pieces of me, winging off to Christmas trees far away, waiting for Christmas morning to arrive.

Today the first happy picture arrived on my phone. Such a great picture! My whole day was made. Knitworthy!! I asked everyone else for a pic of their presents, and by this evening they had arrived. Look!!

Cousins in knitted goods.
My cousins in snowy southwest Colorado sent the first picture. I was so relieved and happy to see how nice the cowls and hat looked. The cowls are Clinkerbell Cowls by Casapinka, and the purple hat is a Sockhead Slouch Hat by Kelly McClure. Project notes for the cowls are here and here, and if you really want to see some notes on the hat, they are here.
Sister ready for winter.
Then my sister in Oregon sent the happiest picture ever showing off her fingerless mitts and another Sockhead hat. This is her first winter in a colder climate, and those mitts (made of superwash merino, silk, and yak) are already getting a lot of use. The project notes for the mitts have the pattern included.
Daughter-in-law in her cowl.
This evening the picture of the brioche cowl that I made for my daughter-in-law arrived. Her cowl had already been worn for an outing this afternoon, and she told me it was really cushy and warm. The pattern is Purl Soho’s Gina’s Brioche Cowl. Here are my project notes.

Everything fits. Everyone was happy with their gifts, and I’m completely assured that they will put the knitted pieces of love to work. Yay. But wait, there is more. I knitted for the cats this year, too!

Cat and mouse.
My grandkitty Maya attacked her Portly Mouse as soon as I gave it to her. Must have been the catnip.
Cat and mouse.
My other grandkitty Daxter went to sleep with his.

My son reports that the cats have been flinging the mice around his apartment and that they are being well used. Excellent. Even the cats are knitworthy in this family.

See, we knitters (well, those of us who are addicts like myself…) are actually pretty simple. Send us a happy picture and a nice “thank you” and we have gotten our fix and will now produce knitted goods forever.

Because you are knitworthy!

I hope that you all had a wonderful holiday and that the winter will be kind to you.

MacKenzie Speaks: The Christmas Knitting Frenzy Continues…

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Cat wearing antlers.
Do you see what the Mother of Cats put on me?

Things have just gotten out of control here. The Mother of Cats has been knitting night and day for way too long here. She keeps rushing off to the yarn stash for more yarn (I always help her with that!), printing more patterns off the computer, and casting on new projects. I’ve tried and tried to slow her down, demanded cookies, petting breaks, and trips outside, but she just goes right back to the knitting as soon as I wander off for a nap. I chomp yarn and dragged one project off to hide under the Christmas tree, but she continues to persist. She is determined to knit herself a little Christmas this year.

Christmas Gnome
I asked her to fill this one with catnip, but nope. She put it on the mantel where I can’t reach it. Why is the Mother of Cats so mean to me?

So far she has knitted 4 cowls, 2 hats, 2 shawls, a pair of fingerless mitts and this cute little Gnome that she WON’T LET ME PLAY WITH. Almost everything that she knitted has been mailed away, but the gnome is still here. I haven’t quite figured out how to get my claws into it, but I’m still plotting…

Sigh. Is it Christmas yet? I’m being neglected something awful.

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

I am so happy with the gnome and can’t wait to make another one. The pattern is Here We Gnome Again by Sarah Schira. So addictive. The pattern is linked to instructional videos that show you how to do the twisted cables without a cable needle; after a few minutes on YouTube I was doing them like a pro. Here is my project page on Ravelry.

Gnome details.
The cables are what makes the pattern so special. This is the hat; don’t my stitches look great? The great support with the pattern made that happen. 🙂

I’m knitting the last cowl (a brioche baby that is taking me forever!) and shawl now. I think I’ll make it. Sure, I can get this done. No problem. Move along. Nothing to see here…

This evening I downloaded another pattern: chubby mice that will be catnip stuffed toys for MacKenzie and the other kitties in the family. I can polish off some little mice. How long can they take? I just added catnip to me shopping list.

Christmas is for cats, too.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Knitworthy

It began with a wail (really, you can wail by text…) from my niece in California… MY MITTS ARE HURT!! The wailing continued in the following texts… How could this have happened? I took such good care of them! Suddenly they are falling apart! If I send them to you, can you fix them?

I literally save the leftover yarn from all of my projects just for moments like this one, and I knew that I had the yarn from these mitts, so I said to send them to me and I would see what I could do.

Mitts on magazine cover.
While waiting for the mitts to arrive I hunted down the pattern. They are the Latvian Fingerless Mitts shown on the cover of this magazine (Knitting Traditions, Winter 2011), and they are just beautiful. Just look at that pattern! My niece asked me to make them as soon as the magazine came out, and a few weeks later I sent them to her.

Did you notice the date on the magazine cover? Those mitts were made 8 years ago. Oops. I think that I know what went wrong…

Worn mitts.
Even the most lovingly cared for mitts will eventually wear out. The breaks and worn fibers were right along the edging and thumb where they rubbed against the steering wheel of the car.  Poor babies… nothing is forever.
Dead mitt.
No question about it. The repair job on these mitts would be horrendous. I let her know that they were toast.

Here’s the deal with the mitts. The day that she received them from me she sent back a happy picture of her wearing them with a huge smile on her face. She showed them off on Facebook. She made them the cover picture of her Facebook page. She thanked me again and again over the years as  she continued to wear and enjoy them.

Never, ever, was there a person more knitworthy than my niece!

I told her I would make her some new mitts.

My niece began to send me pictures of wildly intricate and fiddly mitts for me to consider knitting for her. Lots of color, braids, ruffles, bobbles and stranded features. Mitts that a unicorn would be ecstatic to receive. My heart sank. I’m drowning in knitting, and I have also been contacted by another couple of people asking me to spin/knit for them. It is Christmas. I want to go back to knitting some of my projects that were bumped for the holidays. I don’t want to buy more yarn…

Monet Again mitts.
But when this came I was hooked. Hummm… where is this pattern? What do I have in the yarn stash? I must make these!! I must!!

Curse you Pinterest! There is no way I can walk away from the fabulous mitt project now when faced with this!  All objections were abandoned and I committed wholeheartedly to knitting “mitts to die for”.  My niece and I began to track down the pattern and worked in tandem until we had it. These mitts are the project of the Ravelry user Susanmarie, and here is her project page for the mitts. She based the mitts on a sock pattern produced by Blue Moon Fiber Arts called Sauvie Island.  Luckily for me Susanmarie kept fabulous notes on her design, so I’m in pretty good shape as I attempt to make these mitts for my niece, but I needed to hunt down the original sock pattern.  We soon discovered that the pattern was included in a booklet produced by Blue Moon that is now out of print, but more intrepid investigations led us to a PDF version that could be purchased. I bought the sock booklet and my niece will reimburse me. We were in business. Time to stash dive for the yarn!!

Yarn
Check out this color wildness!
Greyscale of yarn.
I wanted to make sure that there would be good contrast between the two yarns to support the stranded colorwork. Yep. This should work!`

A unicorn would cry tears of joy to have mitts made with this yarn. Okay, my niece is not a unicorn, but she has been known to flash hair in some of these bright colors; the colors and the mitt design are screaming her name. I bumped her mitts to the top of the project queue. As soon as the essential Christmas knitting is out of the way I’ll be casting on…

What will happen to the worn out mitts? I have to send them back to my niece because she wants to FRAME THEM!

Never, ever, was there a person more knitworthy than my niece!