The Saturday Update: Week 4

Life went into intermission this week as I spent the ENTIRE WEEK in bed with the flu.

Get your flu shot people!!

I did get a flu shot this year but one of the drugs that I take for my scleroderma interferes with vaccine efficacy. Curses! I do think that my case was kind of mild, but bad enough to make life very difficult for several days. I couldn’t even knit!!

While I was down the rose recovered from its mildew and put out a bloom. Life goes on.

The Saturday Update: Week 3

It was a really busy week for me: doctor’s appointments and testing, a meeting of my book club, a broken tooth, and… wait for it… hurricane force winds outside! I am so glad for my new heater and fence, people. I’ve been busy this week but focused mostly on small, portable projects as that was the kind of week I had.

Knitting

I am enjoying my new Snowshoe socks so much that I cast on another pair early in the week. The trick in these thick, squishy socks is that you can pair a soft 100% merino yarn with a hardy sock yarn that packs a good percentage of nylon. Having discovered how compelling the marled fabric is when you knit two such yarns together is, I dug through the stash looking for another pair to yarns to put together.

The purple yarn is Rockshelter Sock from Meadowcraft Dyeworks. I love the color, but this yarn didn’t work out in the project that I originally bought it for. The grey multi (Western Sky Knits Smooth Sock) was also bought for an abandoned project, but with its 25% nylon and muted flashes of color it was perfect! Together these yarns made a sock that I just loved!
These socks just flew off my needles and I’m wearing them right now as I write this post. My project notes on Ravelry are here.

The first night after I finished the purple marled socks I went to bed wearing them and thought about other possible pairings between yarns in my stash. One soft yarn, one tough. Two colors that will go great together. Ideally, yarns that are just hanging out in the stash wondering what to do with themselves…

The single ply merino yarn (Black Elephant Yarns) was bought years ago as an extra insurance skein when I was knitting a shawl. I did need some of the yarn in this skein, but only a small portion. What ever should I do with the remaining yarn? The red sparkly yarn was a Christmas-time special produced for my favorite LYS by Chasing Rabbits Fiber Co. and is nylon rich. Bam! Another pairing was born and I cast on.  My Ravelry project notes are here.

I’ve also been making some progress on knitting MacKenzie, but slowly as I need to work off the computer and it is the kind of project that needs a block of time and focused attention. Still, there is a cat emerging on my needles.

I’m currently using three mohair yarns and a grey/black fingering yarn to create his back with stripes. I am just beyond his front shoulders at the moment. With all of the mohair he is one soft, furry boy!
Garden

Things are happening in my little indoor garden.

Curses!! There has been a reemergence of mildew on one of the miniature rose bushes…
All of the miniature roses were treated with Neem oil as soon as I saw the mildew. By the end of the week they had appeared to be recovered and the bush with the original infestation was getting ready to bloom. Note to self: buy more Neem oil!
The other big news is that the Amaryllis buds from the bulbs that my sister sent me for Christmas are getting ready to burst open. Yay!! The only orchid that is currently blooming is the white one, but some of the others are gtting pretty close.
Books
I finished up a couple of books this week while I was knitting away on the socks. Doesn’t this one have a beautiful cover?

For some reason that I simply can’t understand every single book I pick up lately is about something that I don’t want to deal with at the moment. This one, which is about a life-long pairing between a cello and a gifted magician, seemed intriguing: there is a curse, a love interest, loss, grief, redemption and recovery. Sounds good, huh? There is also alcoholism, sudden death, suicide, and heart wrenching betrayals, too. Faced with a life of constant struggle as I deal with my chronic illnesses, I am personally calling a moratorium on books like this for awhile. I want some happy, fluffy books for awhile. Or at the very least, people not in the grips of self-destructive behaviors, mental illness, and bleak futures. I’m calling a pause on sociopaths and serial killers, too!

This is absolutely not a happy, fluffy book, but it was what I needed this week.

I’m a big science fiction geek. This book, the 20th in a series that I have been reading over 2 decades, is like the next installment in a Greek drama. The action is really slow: the book unpacks the events of a few momentous days and explores in minute detail the political, social, and familial events as our hero embarks on a diplomatic mission with the aliens that he serves as mediator/facilitator/interpreter for as they attempt to create an alliance that will consolidate power in a difficult region of the planet. It’s very formal. There is lots of analysis and consideration of intent in every action and decision. Forms, and the correct numbers, must be maintained at all times. Everything, and I do mean everything, is fraught with meaning. I love this series and can’t wait to get my hands on the next installment, but I know that it isn’t for everyone.

The Saturday Update: Week 2

So, I am a little late with the weekly update. Since it is only the second week of the year it doesn’t really look at that good, does it. I mean, I should start out the way that I mean to go if I am going to stick to this posting practice. In my defense I an only say…

I tried to write the post up at my son’s place while dinner was cooking and the kitten had other ideas. He decided that my arm was a kick toy and that the computer was almost as much fun. In the face of such determined kitten wildness I retreated from the battlefield and watched a movie.

I really had a busy week, but it was sort of a nonproductive one as I spent most of my time fussing around, swatching, making phone calls and struggling to make decisions.

Knitting

I want to make another knitted cat that looks like MacKenzie, but he is a hard combination of colors and patterns. I spent part of the week shopping the stash (which I did clean out and reorganize while I was at it!), going to the local yarn store, and hunting online. Then I made swatches of various combinations of yarn as I made decisions. Finally, finally, on Friday I cast on and started to knit. I did blog about this project and you can find it here.

I also have some mohair that I bought in December that I just love. Look at this:

This was a totally serendipitous discovery while I was hunting for the yarns to knit cats. My favorite color ever!!  

I want to make a sweater with this yarn by stranding is with a fingering. I have struggled with the decisions: I need the perfect pattern and a fingering that will work with the pattern and make this color shine true. Not as easy as it seems.

I first focused on the color. There was NO pink yarn at my local yarn store that would work with this mohair. I wanted pink with a little bit of speckle. Nope, nope, nope. There was baby pink, hot pink, brownish-pink, bright pink, but not the pink that I wanted. I want to keep the dusty greyish undertone in this yarn! I tried to swatch with various grey yarns hoping that the mohair halo would dominate. NOPE! I tried to swatch with a muted variegated yarn hoping that I would like it as an alternative. NOPE! Actually, that was a huge nope. I want that dusty pink!!

Forget the color. Maybe I should make a decision about the sweater first. I was torn between knitting The Daydreamer and Iskald. I own both patterns so I read through them and made the decision: Daydreamer it is! That sweater has lots of detail work: honeycomb, moving stitches, and bobbles. I needed a smooth yarn that would show off the details through the mohair. I went back online for the umpteenth time hunting for the right color with the correct yarn properties. It has to be a smooth yarn, maybe something not quite pink, something that would add some depth but maintain the dusty hue… with the new focus I looked at yarns I hadn’t considered earlier. Bingo! There was the yarn at the Loopy Ewe.

A single ply yarn in the shade Into Dust by the Uncommon Thread jumped out at me. The color is kind of a light orchid with grey undertones. 

Yay! After all the agonizing I had made my decision. I immediately tried to order the yarn from the Loopy Ewe instead of driving up to Fort Collins, Colorado, to see the yarn in person with my mohair in hand.

And I failed. The website refused to let me log in or to register me as a customer as someone else had my email address. Right, you dumb ass computer, that person is me!! Get with the program here!! I have bought yarn in person at this store in the past and now I want to buy online. Nope, nope, nope said the computer.

<Why is this the week of NOPE!! I asked myself?>

I called the store and suddenly the week did a complete turnaround. The wonderful woman at the store verified my identity, reset the password in a workaround at her end, pulled my yarn for me to check the color consistancy, and sold it to me on the phone. Yay!! The yarn arrived by express mail the next morning and I just gasped in joy when I saw it. Loopy Ewe, you are the best ever!!!

See what I mean?
Now we’re talking. I went with the more detailed sweater design as I knew I was going to end up with a monochromatic yarn. This is going to be the perfect color and texture for my Daydreamer sweater. I am in business people!!

I spent almost the entire week making knitting decisions, but I did get a little knitting done too.

I made a pair of fingerless mitts to gift to a fellow scleroderma patient. Here is my pattern if you want it. 🙂
I also finished another pair of wristers. Should I write up this pattern too?
Garden
My sister sent me two amaryllis bulbs for Christmas. They are close to blooming!!
My African volet plant continues to put up new blooms. Good plant!
A cyclamen plant came to live with me this week. Hey, it was at Sam’s Club and it just followed me home. 

The orchids continue to do well and another plant has buds that look ready to burst open. I think this plant will be purple. Yay. Can’t wait. It has been a good week for plants, and a bad one for the white flies. I think that the Neem oil did them in. Bye white flies. Don’t come back!!

Books

I’m reading three books at once this week, I have to get another one done by Tuesday evening for my book club, and I’ve finished nothing. Stay tuned. I’m sure to get something finished soon.

So that was the week. Lots of indecision and swatch making. I also spent way too much time on the phone and computer trying to set up an appointment with my doctor during the week, but by the end of the week everything was in place for an appointment and testing next week to track down the source of my extremely annoying new symptoms. <Yep. This was more of the NOPE! theme of the week. Would I like to see another doctor? NOPE!! These new docs tend to go crazy when they get their hands on rare disease me. Would I like to go to Urgent Care? Umm… in the height of a major flu outbreak? NOPE!! See, I can do nope too!> Hopefully there will be some answers on the medical scene soon and I can write a post about that. 🙂

Have a great week everyone.

Knitting MacKenzie

Yep. I have caught the cat knitting bug. It’s kind of a problem that I have; as I knit a project I dream of ways to improve it, new colors that I could use, and different yarns that might work better. More than once I have finished up a sweater or shawl just chomping at the bit to cast on another one to see what it would look like with my new ideas. Too much curiosity, but I just can’t help myself. I have to see the new version.

By the time I was finishing up knitting my son’s cat Daxter I has already made plans to make two more cats, and there is probably a couple more in the works, too. Must have more cats!! The most obvious next cat to knit is MacKenzie.

Unbelievably handsome cat in the light of a window.
Look at how handsome MacKenzie is! Knitting him is a big exercise in color problem solving.
Here is one of the problems: MacKenzie is a ticked tabby cat. His fur changes color as it grows out, and the changes in color put a lot of depth into the final product on the cat.

Cat, the pattern by Claire Garland, uses several yarns stranded together to create the multi-colored furry cat. I needed 2 mohairs and another yarn at all times while knitting the cat; different effects are created by changing one or more yarns as you move from section to section of the cat. I realized that I could create tabby stripes with fourth mohair as I knitted the body of the cat due to the construction techniques. I started collecting yarns for the Knitting MacKenzie project while I was still stitching Daxter. I found a rich cedar mohair. I found some black and cream. I began to search for yarn online and made multiple trips to the yarn store.

This mohair was a huge acquisition, but there are all those other colors in MacKenzie’s coat that I needed to find somehow.
I decided to use the grey/black yarn to help simulate stripes in MacKenzie’s coat. Look at his face! I planned to use the cedar and cream mohair yarns to capture some of the color on his chin and around his nose and whiskers.
Here is most of the yarn that I’ve settled on for the project. In addition to these I have two more mohair yarns and another alpaca/silk yarn that I’m using for his chin.

Whew! Late in the week I began to swatch all types of yarn combinations so I could get a feel for how they would look together and planned where to place them on the cat while I knit it. Last night I finally cast on and began knitting MacKenzie. My project notes are here, but right now there’s not much there other than a listing of the yarns.

So far, MacKenzie isn’t all that impressed…

As soon as I get above the ears the black mohair jumps in and I can begin the black ridge down MacKenzie’s back. Then there will be stripes. This is fun.

Stay tuned. There is more to come. 🙂

MacKenzie: Can I have some cookies now?

The Saturday Update: Week 1

Have you ever gotten to the end of a week and wondered what you had accomplished? Yep. Me, too. As a New Year’s resolution I’m going to try to do a weekly update every Saturday about all the little things that were going on that week. You know, all the stuff that has to do with yarn, books and my garden. Here’s the first update.

Knitting

I just made the best socks in the world! I’m not kidding, these babies are just great! I’m talking about the Snowshoe Socks by Emily Foden that I knit this week. What is nice about them, you ask? I’m so glad you wanted to know: they are heavier socks that are knit by holding two fingering strands together. One strand needs to have nylon in it, but the other can be a softer yarn like 100% superwash merino or maybe something with cashmere. I have a lot of yarns that I bought to feed the stash thinking that they would be great shawls or whatever someday. Right. Those yarns are still lurking in the stash laughing at me. I can now use them to make socks when combined with a tough sock yarn. Together the two fingering yarns make a marled DK yarn that blends through the sock as you swap in different fingering yarns. This can be a stash buster or you can just use 2 yarns that you love marled together. The pattern is simple and pretty easy to adapt if you need to. My project notes for this sock are here.

The navy and gold are yarns that I had left over from previous sweater projects. I hate yarn chicken, so I always have an extra skein of yarn. The light blue mix is yarn that I bought to feed the stash. A year later I’m still wondering what to use it with. Since it went with the other two yarns I decided to use it as the main yarn with the other two jumping in and out.

The gold yarn has some cashmere and both the navy and the gold contain nylon. The light blue multi is 100% superwash merino and could never survive as a sock on its own. This strategy allows it to become a sock by hanging out with the other two yarns. It’s kind of mysterious, but the resulting fabric is much better than a sock just knit from DK yarn. I think that the twisting of the two sock yarns plus the added nylon makes the difference as you knit.

Look at the cool fabric that is being produced by these three yarns in combo.
Here they are all finished up: hearty socks that are amazingly warm, soft and kind to my feet right when I need a little help to get through the winter.
In spite of gloves with mittens over them I lost circulation in my hands and feet while trying to get into the grocery store… this is Raynaud’s.

What’s up with my feet? Ugh. Where to start. I haven’t made too big a deal about it, but I’ve been struggling to walk for a year now and finally have transitioned from limping, to using crutches, to mastering a snazzy purple cane. The opposite foot to the bad hip has developed a slew of problems of its own and now needs to be babied also. My toes hurt and need to be cushioned. The fat  that people usually have on the bottoms of their feet is now gone on mine (thanks, scleroderma) and I’m walking on the bones of the outer side of my foot and they are not happy campers at all. I’m developing benign tumors in the big tendon on the bottom of my foot (the plantar fascia), and to top it all off I struggle with loss of circulation in my toes because of the cold. Not to worry, people, I am a knitter and these socks are going to be big helps for me in the weeks and months of cold weather to come. Bring it, winter, I am ready for you!! Note to self: knit more of these socks!!

Garden
The first orchid plant has started blooming! This is a plant that puts out lots of smaller blooms. Four more orchid plants have growing stems and those flowers will be larger. I can’t wait to see what the color of the blooms will be: you’d think I’d keep notes, but no, this is going to be an adventure. I’m pretty sure I’m in for purples and rosy gold blooms.

All of the orchids are thriving under the indoor growth lights that I bought for them last winter and I gave them more fertilizer and a spritz of Neem oil this week. I felt sorry for a couple of little roses that were still in the garage and brought them into the indoor garden. To thank me for taking pity on them they gifted me with white fly: those brats!! Everyone got sprayed with Neem and we’ll see if that does the trick.

Books
This is why my socks were completed in three days flat!!

I’m trying to listen to audiobooks more while knitting, and I started this one early in the week while knitting in bed with MacKenzie. Good lord! Don’t start this book if you don’t have time to put your life on hold while obsessively reading (or listening) it from cover to cover. It’s compelling. It’s horrifying. It’s best described as a psychological thriller that involves a cult-like psychopath, abused and abandoned children, a murder mystery, lies, poisons, inheritances, families lost and found, or a take home lesson to not let strangers come live with you. Okay, this is flat out unbelievable and more than a little disturbing, and the characters aren’t all that likable, but you can’t help feeling like, maybe, this could actually happen… I read this book for my book club and I can’t wait to go talk to some other people about it.

I’ve been thinking of Australia this week. If you are there, please stay safe. I feel awful complaining about cold while you are suffering through extreme heat and fire behavior. Hugs to all of you.

Knitting Daxter

This is Daxter.

Daxter was a birthday gift to my son years ago: best present ever. 
Daxter loved his sister Maya.
But he especially was bonded to my son. Whenever possible, he was on his lap. He had a purr that you could hear across a room.
An exceptionally expressive cat, you always had an idea of what Daxter was thinking. He visibly worried, literally wagged when he was happy, and smiled when he was glad to see you. On this occasion I had stopped by to check on the cats while my son was hospitalized. This “proof of life” snapshot showed how he felt about me showing up when he had been separated from my son for TWO WHOLE DAYS!!

I bought the yarn and decided to knit Daxter last summer as a gift to my son for Christmas, but following a rapid and shocking series of events last September Daxter left us; it was only 24 hours after the first hint that something was horribly wrong. I put the yarn away, but a few weeks ago I took it back out and started on it again. (I blogged a little about the early efforts here). Okay, this wasn’t all smooth sailing… the pattern by Claire Garland (called Cat) was really well written and had lots of picture support. There was also video support for how to complete the cat once the knitting was done. It was about 40 pages in length, however, so I worked off my computer for the first time. I may have lost my place a couple of times while scrolling up and down through the pattern… I wasn’t completely happy with the colors of the yarns that I found. It’s hard to make a completely realistic cat.

But this was ridiculous! Obviously, mistakes were made. The pattern suggested brown yarn for the eye socket, and MacKenzie has black around his eye, so I went for it. Ugh!! The eyes I bought on Amazon look more like snake eyes, and what is up with the ear on the left? After looking at it carefully and checking the pattern I found that I had accidently made it like the previous ear, instead of being the opposite side. 

Sigh. Never, ever, in the history of cat knitting was there a more wonky looking cat. There were strategic snips and frogging as I attacked the cat parts that annoyed me the most. I ordered new eyes with my son selecting the correct color and shape. I replaced the eye socket with light colored mohair. I took apart, ripped out and reknit the ear on the left. The first nose had to be replaced twice. Sometimes you can overthink these things: I went out and found some cheap eyes that I could use for right now while we wait for the better ones. I embroidered on some stripes to match Daxter.

Here is the finished (almost) cat.

This is much closer to what I was thinking about!
Even MacKenzie agrees!
The little cat almost seems real as I flipped it around while adding embroidered stripes and details. Look at that face!!
Here he is trying out MacKenzie’s blankie. 

Last night I took the cat up to my son’s for New Year’s and we settled him onto the loveseat in the office where Daxter used to hang out from time to time.

and here he is, knitted Daxter, home at last. I plan to add more embroidery later on, but for now is is done.

Happy New Year, everyone.

I will be knitting more cats (and maybe a wild rabbit) this year. May you all also find a project that gives you joy in the coming year.

2019 Challenges: Crushed Them!

The end of the year is in sight.  I have books that aren’t finished and some projects that still aren’t done, but I’m good with my progress on the three challenges that I set for myself this year. There were three big ones: removing skeins of yarn from my enormous yarn stash, completing and logging knitted projects on Ravelry, and finishing books that I logged on my page at Goodreads. I did really well this year! Here’s the numbers.

Knitting

I set a goal of 30 projects for myself in the Challenge at Ravelry. This was 5 more than last year, and I managed 25 projects the year before, so I was comfortable with the number. Since I was focusing on using up yarn in the stash I really was responsible about logging each project and recording the yarn used and the amounts as best I could. I got lots of things done this year: lots of socks, mitts, sweaters, and some odd items along the way.

Seven sweaters jumped off my needles this year, all of them huge successes; comfy and a joy to wear. Here are some of them (Clockwise from the upper left): Koivua (Caitlin Hunter), Nordiska (Caitlin Hunter), Sturgill (Caitlin Hunter), Daelyn (Isabell Kraemer), and Understated (Joji Locatelli).
I made lots of shawls, socks, fingerless mitts, and even some gnomes this Christmas. The shawl shown here is What the Fade?! by Andrea Mowry and the gnomes are Here We Gnome Again by Sarah Schira.

There were lots of other projects that came off my needles; too many to show here. MacKenzie got a mouse and a blanket. I made cowls, dishcloths, and some thrummed mittens. It was a great year! As of tonight I have completed 48 projects, and the number is actually more as I combined some little projects together in the same Ravelry project page. Knitting goal crushed!

Yarn Destash

I resolved in January to get at least 50 skeins of yarn out of the yarn stash. At my high point in December I had gotten out 75 skeins, but a little trip to my favorite yarn store saw me buying 4 skeins of my most favorite color mohair, more yarn for the cat that I am knitting, and some yarn that I felt I had to grab when I saw it. Nine more skeins walked out of the store with me that day. Whatever. When you deduct the yarn from my total I still got 66 skeins of yarn out of the stash this year. Yarn destash goal crushed!!

Yarn stash.
Not to worry; I still have lots of yarn where those skeins came from in the stash!

Books

Lots of reading happened this year. I began to listen to audiobooks while knitting and once that happened the book count steadily climbed through the year. I set myself a goal of 50 books at Goodreads; as of tonight I have finished 65 books this year. Reading goal crushed!!

I tried to pick my favorite books from the list, but that was too hard. So many 5 star books! Here are some of the ones that really made an impression on me:

Some of my favorites:
    • Where the Crawdads Sing is a magical tale of an isolated young woman, abandoned as a child by almost everyone who should have cared for her, who grows to become a gifted naturalist in her own right. Living with nature in a coastal marsh area, guided by her understanding of the biological systems in the ecosystem around her, she becomes the focus of a murder investigation. Is she the victim of prejudice? Did she do it? Was there actually a crime? You will have to read the book for yourself!
    • Blowout speaks for itself in the title. Hey, I live in Colorado. Oil money is big here, the risks to the population are real, and I remember when we had earthquakes from the fracking operations. Nowadays there is a battle to control how close drilling can be to human habitation in this state; there are a lot of jobs involved, but there was that home that exploded in Firestone, Colorado… Did you know that an early fracking operation in Colorado involved a nuclear explosive that was detonated underground? Yeah. I highly recommend this book.
    • Childen of Ruin speaks to one of my pet peeves in science fiction writing. Why do we always depict aliens as being like us? You know, bipeds who speak and have hands. Beings that think like us. Why should that be? This book goes there using models of intelligence found right here on earth. Octopuses are way smart, but their method of information processing is very different from our own, and they use visual cues in their communication. Portia spiders have object permanence and are canny predators who use a model of problem solving that is formidable and different from our own. Slime molds get together from time to time and act like a multicellular organism… how do they coordinate that trick? Bacteria have more genes in their population than any one member can store; learning is fluid and travels through the population as members swap genes with each other. This book made me think about all these models of intelligence and made me look at my plants and animals with new eyes. One of my jade plants had a slime mold last summer and I put it right outside… best to be safe!
    • The Night Tiger was a huge gift to me. Magic. Dreams. The interface between the spirit world and our own. Tigers who become people, or is it the other way around? It was just a fun, wonderful read with a strong female character in the lead. I loved it.
    • There were so many other 5 stars in my list, but I can’t write about then all. Here’s a list: Ninth House, The Night Fire, The Testaments, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, The Guest Book , The Clockmaker’s Daughter, and The Alice Network all made the list.

So that’s that. I made it through all of my resolved goals and I’m now thinking about new ones. It’s time to take out the spinning wheel and the loom, don’t you think? That, however, will be another post.