Snowmageddon Knitting

Hey, Snowmageddon came, Snowmageddon raged, Snowmageddon left. I don’t mean to be flippant here; this was a really serious storm here in Colorado and we are still in recovery mode. The house shook with the wind, the windows were plastered with snow,  drifts blocked both doors, and there is a new damp stain on one upstairs ceiling. Now, two days after the storm the melt-off is in full swing, the emergency shelters are once again empty, abandoned cars are getting dug out, and the power company is working around the clock to restore power. It will take days to get things closer to normal, but we are getting there.

Face of bear statue buried in snow drift.
I am a lucky, lucky girl. I never lost power, my new furnace kept me warm and toasty, and my neighbors dug out my walks and driveway before I even got up the next morning. 

MacKenzie and I knitted our way right through the storm. Really, best knitting weather ever. Look at what we got done:

Sweater in progress.
I now have both sleeves done on the new Sturgill sweater and am back to working on the body. Why did I do the sleeves before finishing the body? Two words: yarn chicken!!
Socks.
We also took a break from the sweater to work on some simple socks. Hey. They match the sweater!
Cat on shoveled path through the snow.
Today I shoveled a path through the snow on the deck so MacKenzie could go outside. I’m not sure that he appreciated my efforts all that much…
Snow on bush.
…and it is clear that it will be several days before he can hang out under his favorite shrub again. Poor MacKenzie. Cats hate snow!
Happy cat wearing knitted project.
But they sure do help knitting!!

Today it is bright and sunny outside and I’m ready to head off to complete chores for the weekend. Then it will be time for more knitting. I am dying to get the sweater done before it is too warm to wear it!

After all, it is only 5 days until the start of spring.

Have a great (knitting) weekend, everyone!

Waiting for Snowmageddon

I woke up this morning to a warm, sunny day and a cell phone full of alerts. Well, look at that! A weather alert had been declared overnight for my area.

The knitworthy niece showing off her fabulous mitts!!
But in sunny California my KNITWORTHY niece is rocking her new mitts that I made for her. Did you ever see a happier recipient of a knitted item? She posted the picture to Facebook last night and my phone was also full of reactions to her picture. That’s what I’m talking about! Knitworthy.

The panic was in full swing when I looked at my phone. The schools were already closed for tomorrow. The city was advising that I get essential supplies and that I should plan on staying home tomorrow. There was a note about taking care of animals and checking the furnace. The county sent a message warning that they would try to keep “snow route” roads open, but they couldn’t make any guarantees.  By the afternoon the National Weather Service had put out a blizzard warning, and by this evening the weather forecasters were talking about a possible “bomb cyclone“.

Cat face.
Cats do not like snow!! They aren’t really sure what “bomb cyclones” are, but they can’t be good. Cats dislike “bomb cyclones” and blizzards even more than they dislike snow.

There have been several storms and a lot of avalanches this month, some of which came across the major interstate freeway through the mountains. Here in Colorado we usually get snow in March (it is the snowiest month for us), but this is ridiculous!

All right then… not a moment to spare! I sprang into action and hit the road. Essentials for the storm include: gas for the car, groceries (including salmon and avocadoes… I believe in civilized snow emergencies!), a blood draw at Kaiser, and books from the library. I grabbed a Starbucks latte for a treat and headed home to get shovels and other gear ready for the storm. I now have yummy food, lots of projects, and good books to keep me company. Bring it on, Mother Nature, I am ready to go. MacKenzie, not so much, but that is the way it is for cats, I’m afraid.

Happy cat wearing knitted project.
MacKenzie and I have been working on my Sturgill sweater while watching the weather reports, and it is looking good!
Author wearing sweater in progress.
See. Looking good! I’ve taken the body off the needles and am knitting the sleeves right now because… yarn chicken worries. Once the sleeves are done I can blend the remaining yarn artfully to get the length I want.
Moon shining through a tree.
Tonight all is still calm and the storm is still just a dream waiting to happen…

I’m knitting like crazy on the sweater this evening and have several shows queued up for me on the DVR. I’m thinking that I’m in for a few days of prime knitting weather.

Yippee!

You all be safe out there!

PS: Did you wonder what I had to do with the shovel to get it ready for the snowstorm? Why, bring it inside, of course, so it would be warm when I spray it with Pam later for no-stick snow shoveling. We knitters are canny about spring snow storms…

Sturgill Learning Curve

I launched into Sturgill with supreme self-confidence. I had just finished off some stunningly challenging mitts for my niece and felt like there wasn’t a knitting project anywhere that would be beyond me. I’m rocking, right?! Let me just print out this bad boy, cast on and whip it out…

Sturgill pattern by Caitlin Hunter and the author's work in progress.
There isn’t a sweater designed by Caitlin Hunter that I don’t want to knit. I was hooked as soon as I saw this pattern hit Ravelry. I went stash shopping that night and couldn’t wait to get started. As you can see, I have been making progress, but I’ve been learning new tricks along the way…

Do you hear the sound of screeching brakes in the background? Yep. Hubris will only get you so far. There have been problems. I have had to rethink some things, learn some new skills, and just embrace the adventure. Here are the highlights:

Color Choices

Yarn for sweater.
I selected these yarns the night that I printed the pattern. I thought that the purple would be great as the color pop (turquoise color in the original) in the sweater. I cast on and started knitting with the grey, and then wound the other colors when I got to the colorwork chart. Oh. Once I had the yarn wound I realized that this purple made the dusky pink (my favorite!) look dull. Really dull. Ugh. Time to hit the yarn stash again…
Final yarn chosen for the sweater.
I found this muted purple to use instead. The new purple is fingering (the other yarns are DK) so I will need to knit it doubled. That should work, right? The pink brightened right up with the new purple and looks much better. Yay! I cast on with these yarns.

Yarn Handling

I’m pretty good at knitting colorwork these days. I carry the dominant color in my left hand and the other color in my right; I catch the strands every other stitch so there are few floats. What I didn’t anticipate because I didn’t look closely at the pattern in my rush of casting on joy is that there are three colors being used at a time in parts of this color chart. Oops! After some struggling, inappropriate language, and hair pulling, I worked out a routine to handle all three colors by parking one on the left to be used only by my left hand (grey yarn), one on the right to be used only by my right hand (purple yarn) and the pink was parked in the middle. As I worked through the chart the pink switched hands as required by the work, I caught floats when I could, and there was no tangling of the yarn.  Slow going, but the final fabric looks pretty good, and you can’t see that inappropriate language at all. 🙂

Bobbles

There were bobbles on my niece’s mitts, which required a lot of turning back and forth while I worked each one. Not a big deal, because the mitt was a small item. This sweater has lots of 3-stitch bobbles, and I didn’t want to turn the work back and forth for every single one. The bobbles involve only 3 stitches. Obviously a great opportunity to knit backwards…

After some messing around I figured out how to do it. I’ve started the bobble here and am backwards knitting the three bobble-stitches from the right needle back onto the left. To do this you insert the left needle into the back of the stitch you are working…
Knitting backwards
Wrap the yarn around the left needle from front to back…
Knitting backwards
Pull the wrapped yarn through the stitch…
Knitting backwards
Pull the finished stich off the right needle to the left one. I just knitted this stitch backwards! 
Finished bobble
By knitting stitches backwards instead of turning the work and purling them, I found that it was much easier (and faster) to get the bobbles done. Win and a new skill acquired!

There’s more struggle ahead of me. I’m worried about running out of the grey yarn and there was no more at the LYS so I bought two skeins of fingering to use knitted double. That’s DK, right? The colors look to be a good match, but I’m still a little anxious. I hated to add two skeins to the stash, but I was dying with yarn chicken anxiety. I’m getting away with doubled yarn with the purple, but if I pull that trick with the sleeves will they look funny? Lots to worry about.

MacKenzie helping with the knitting.
I’m also dealing with the usual cat assistance while I knit. So cute. So purrsistent. So annoying when struggling with three colors or bobbles.
Knitted Progress.
But I’m making good progress on the sweater anyway and I’m really happy with the colors. I can’t wait to get this finished and blocked!!

I’m still trying to clean as much yarn as I can out of the stash this year. So far I’ve used up 13 skeins, and with the sweater I should clear several more even without counting the two skeins I added on as insurance. This sweater is mostly out of the stash, and even though it is keeping me on my toes, I am so happy with how it is knitting up!

Here are my Sturgill project notes on Ravelry.

The Knitworthy Mitts

This is a tale of loss, sorrow, a series of wailing texts, an internet search, and my reckless fearless launch into making unicorn-envy-inducing mitts. These fabulous mitts are a gift for a niece who can only be described as “knitworthy”. The story of the launch of this mitts project and my niece’s essential knitworthiness can be found in this earlier post.

Did you read the old post? Maybe you remember it from before Christmas. Here’s the short version… Never, ever, was there someone more knitworthy than my niece. She longed for some special mitts after her treasured mitts from years ago died. She will give them lots of love and a good home. I surrendered to the challenge, went stash shopping, found yarn, and cast on. My niece bought me the pattern book from Blue Moon Fiber Arts and I was in business.

Mitts
Here they are! Mitts that could reduce a unicorn to tears of envy.

Did I mention that these mitts are as much knitted art as yummy warmness for cold hands? Art comes with some pain, however… there have been tears. The cat has been chased away. Frogging happened… and happened… and happened. The project was placed into time out more than once. At one point I was using two magazines, a knitting chart created on the computer and the notes from another knitter as I worked. This has been a little extreme to say the least.

Details of the mitt.
And yet, these mitts were worth all of that! Do you see all of the details? There are ruffles, bobbles, braids, Fair Isle, and embroidery on these mitts. I thought about adding buttons or bells, but you have to draw a line somewhere, don’t you think?

The original mitts that were the inspiration for these were knitted by Ravelry knitter Susanmarie who created Monet Again mitts using a sock pattern for inspiration. Do you see the problem? I’m channeling mitts knitted by Susanmarie who used design details from the Sauvie Island sock designed by Blue Moon Fiber Arts. The original mitts that I had made for my niece years ago had herringbone braids, so I decided to put them into these mitts just as Susanmarie did with hers. I wanted to try out a design on the thumbs. I was kind of crazy…

Thumb chart
I found an online source that would allow me to make a chart for the thumb colorwork at ColorNotes Yarn and worked out a way to put a heart on my thumbs. Hey, this looks pretty good, right?
Heart detail on mitt thumb.
Design fail. All that work, and the crazy colors in the yarns made the heart kind of hit-or-miss. This is the better of the two mitts. Yuk. Ugly heart!
Embroidered heart on thumb of mitt.
Embroidery saves the day!!

The mitts are now blocked and ready to mail out to my niece tomorrow. A piece of my sanity heart goes with them. I know that she will treasure them for years.

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

But don’t tell me, Melissa, if these don’t fit or get eaten by the dog! ♥

My project notes contain as much detail as I could fit in. If you want to test your own patience and possible your sanity you are welcome to them!

The Thrum Adventure

I started this year with a commitment to reduce the size of my stash and a fuzzy notion of attacking some knitting projects that I had never done before. I thought that I would like to learn how to do double knitting. Maybe some herringbone stitch. Definitely, thrummed mitts.

Mitts and cat.
It was cold this weekend so I worked steadily all day Sunday on the thrummed mitts and got them done. This is my son’s cat Daxter checking them out.

I was really motivated to knit some warmer mittens, and I’ve heard that thrummed mittens provide serious warmth. They just look so cool, they can felt and mold themselves to fit hands well, and then there is the insulation factor. My Raynaud’s has gotten worse over the last year and I have some concerns about digital ulcers. Nope. I don’t want one of those!! I need to be able to function in the cold without taking risks with my fingers.

Cat and roving.
My BKB Deb gave me this merino roving from Malibrigo. Perfect for thrummed mitts!

I found a promising pattern online, Warm Paws by Carol Ullmann, dug out some worsted weight yarn from the stash, and watched videos on YouTube to learn about knitting in thrums. Pretty straightforward, and the pattern gave excellent instructions too.

Loop of fiber.
The staple length of the merino in the roving was pretty long: 3″-4″. It was also pretty darn soft and lofty. I pulled off little strips about 6″ long and then folded them into loops.
Making a thrum.
Each loop was pinched in the middle to make a bow, and then twisted to hold it together. I quickly discovered that my thrums needed more handling to keep them from shedding on the mitten, so I added a little water to the center of the loop (where my fingers are gripping it) and then rubbed it briskly with a finger on the back of my hand or wrist to make the wool felt in the middle. Hey, I have scleroderma, and I can’t twist the loop between my fingers, but that would probably work for another person. 🙂
Thrums
The prepared thrums were pretty hardy once the middles were felted and I could make several ahead of time. In this shot you can see the felted middle in each thrum.
Inside of the mitt.
Once knitted into the mitt the loopy thrums stayed in place and behaved themselves.

The finished mitts are just fantastic and fit like a dream. I wore them as I drove home from my son’s last night in the cold and snow; my hands stayed warm and for the first time in a long while I didn’t have a Raynaud’s attack during the drive. I’m still researching battery operated warm mittens, but in the meantime these thrummed mitts are going to be a game changer for me. The way that merino felted so quickly I figure that I can just stuff more loops in to increase the insulation as needed. Here are my project notes.

So, how am I doing on my New Year’s resolutions? I can check thrummed knitting off my list, and with this project I have now removed 14 skeins of yarn from the stash. I’m pretty sure I will make the goal of reducing the stash by 50 skeins this year. Of course, not every project is quick to complete. Check out how I’m doing on the fabulous, colorful mitts (that would make a unicorn cry with envy…) that I’m making for my knitworthy niece…

Mitts
Those bobbles and braids are slowing me down, but look at how cool they are going to be!! Here are these project notes.

Happy knitting everyone, and I do hope that the weather is behaving for you.

MacKenzie Speaks: Done, Done, and Done!!

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Cat.
Do you see how innocent I look? I ran out the front door when an Amazon package arrived, forced the Mother of Cats to chase me down in her bathrobe, and then informed her that I needed cookies. What? Cookies are for cats!

A few week ago the Mother of Cats lost control of her stash and cast on project after project. There was an explosion of  WIPs. The project bags and plastic containers were everywhere. I was constantly in trouble for knocking things off the table. So excitable, the Mother of Cats. I don’t think that she has her priorities aligned correctly. Cats are first, always. Everyone knows this!

This week she pulled herself together and got things done. Look at this!

Cat and knitting.
I helped myself to a little yarn chomping while she tried to finish the sleeves of her sweater. I kind of like this thick Brown Sheep yarn because you can get a good chomp on it!
Finished sweater.
Monday the Mother of Cats weaved in all of the ends and the sweater was done! Mohair and wool: perfect for cat naps. The Mother of Cats is thinking of knitting me a little blankie from the extra skeins.
Cowl on author.
Tuesday she finished her new cowl.
Cowl on wooden bear.
By Wednesday the cowl was blocked and finished. I think it looks better on the bear, don’t you?
Cat and sock.
Wednesday she concentrated on getting a sock done and I once again helped myself to some chomping. This thin yarn isn’t as fun to chomp and the Mother of Cats actually YELLED at me to stop. What is wrong with her? Yarn (and cookies) is for cats, right?
Socks.
Tonight they came off the needles and she did the finish work. Look! Here they are… done!!

Wow. Suddenly the Mother of Cats needs to clean up the coffee table by her knitting chair. There are empty needles, knitting patterns, project bags, and yarn scraps everywhere. I can hardly get to my bed with all of this chaos around it. Why does the Mother of Cats lack balance? She should learn from me. It is best to spend the day sleeping, eating, chomping cookies, causing trouble (umm… I might have eaten part of a baby rose bush…), and chasing yarn.

Tomorrow she plans to clean up and to get her last two WIPs finished off so she can WIND MORE YARN!! Oh, I really like to wind yarn.  That is about my favorite thing in the world. The Mother of Cats would struggle to get things done without me.

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • The sweater is the Daelyn Pullover and will be a great cold weather sweater for me. My project notes are here.
  • The Cowl is the Dissent Cowl; I knit it with MCN in a DK weight from Western Sky Knits. It is very soft, sturdy and warm. Another cold weather star. My project notes are here.
  • The socks are my own pattern to match my new Clinkerbell Cowl by Casapinka. Project notes are here.
  • I have to get a pair of mitts and my thrummed mittens finished. Next week! Tomorrow I am going to wind the yarn for a new sweater!! Sturgill, here I come!!

MacKenzie Speaks: A Mouse of My Own

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Cat with toy mouse.
Do you see what I have?

The week has been just awful. The Mother of Cats has been gone most of the week going on adventures in the new car WITHOUT ME and leaving me home alone. It snowed. It got horrible cold. I couldn’t find a mouse anywhere no matter how many times I went into the garage. Another cat in the family caught a mouse under his house and SENT THE PICTURE TO TAUNT ME!! I have been sad all day about it.

The Mother of Cats went to the pet store today to buy me a mouse (in a cage with a wheel it could run on… she said it would be fun to watch) and they refused to sell her one because it was TOO COLD!! It is so unfair I can hardly stand it. I want a mouse!!

Cat and toy mouse.
But when I woke up this evening my little mouse full of catnip had arrived.
Sleeping cat with toy mouse.
At last.

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies when I wake up?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • It has been hard to find MacKenzie a new companion. I tried to find him a kitten, but it is the wrong time of the year and I’m kind of worried that he is too old (he is 15) to handle a spunky one. I looked into fish, but there really isn’t a good place in the house to put the tank where he can watch them. A caged bird isn’t a good option… he is too clever by half and the bird wouldn’t be safe. Eventually I’ll get him a (securely) caged hamster to watch.
  • The sweet little mouse is from the pattern Portly Mice & Chubby Bunny by MK Designs. It was a fast and simple knit with almost no finishing work; I think it took me an hour to make. I made it with some of the yarn that I’m knitting a sweater with right now, and it is stuffed with filling and catnip! My project notes are here
  • There really was a dead mouse picture that arrived in my phone for MacKenzie. A nephew cat named Panthro sent it.
  • The temperature outside is a balmy 11 degrees F, much better than the -14 that we started out with this morning. It has to get over 30 degrees before I can buy the hamster.