MacKenzie Speaks: Feeling the Magic

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Cat face
I hope that you haven’t been missing me.

The Mother of Cats and I haven’t really been neglecting all of you. We’ve been very, very busy working on her Marled Magic Sweater. This thing is huge! And very squishy.

Cat kneading knitted item.
See what I mean: squishy!

Every part of this HUGE sweater has mohair stranded with it. The Mother of Cats says that is what makes it “marled”. Whatever. I’m just glad that she is paying attention to my needs.

Cat with knitting.
The best part of the sweater is a section that the Mother of Cats called “brioche” stitch.

The brioche stitch section has cashmere and mohair mixed in the yarn. So nice with my fur. I totally could get into a blanket for my cat bed made out of this stuff…

Close-up of the knitting
See. Here’s a close-up. Doesn’t that look like it would make a great cat bed blanket?

The Mother of Cats has been working steadily on this project, and we are making really good progress.  This afternoon she finished the 6th section of the sweater and took it out for a picture or two. She did not let me go outside with her because I jumped the fence again last week (Hey, there was an ENEMY CAT in my yard again!!) and I’m currently under house arrest. The Mother of Cats is so unstable… why does she overreact like this?

Progress on Project.
Look at this! This is the right side of the sweater (front and back) and the part with the vee shape is the center front. Wouldn’t you like to see what those stripes look like?
Center section stripes.
Here they are. The Mother of Cats used 2 yarns for each color in the stripes, so I had a total of 4 different yarns to chomp on while she was knitting. I had SO much fun! I wonder why the Mother of Cats get so snippy with me?

So that’s all that is going on here. The Mother of Cats and I have been knitting and knitting and knitting while she binge watches Netflix and I help her keep all of her little yarns organized. The sweater is already big enough to be a really nice blanket, but she says there is still a lot of knitting ahead of us. I’ve been such a good boy and so much help she brought me home a present yesterday!

Cat and knitted cat.
Her best friend and knitting buddy Deb made this little friend for me!

It’s a little knitted cat that looks just like me! The Mother of Cats says it is for her birthday, but I know that it was really for me. This afternoon it slept with me in my cat bed. So nice and cuddly! I think that the next one should be stuffed with catnip.

Well, that’s it. The Mother of Cats found some nice purple yarn and a grey mohair to use in the next section of the sweater. She is champing at the bit and can’t wait to start knitting the next section.

Back to the knitting salt mines!

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • I actually made an Excel spreadsheet to figure out the colors that I’m using as I make the sweater as I wanted to balance things out and needed to plan ahead.  I’m not out of control at all!
  • I’m struggling with the Ravelry project page: so many yarns to record! I finally started listing the yarns for each section in the notes section, and I need to update the list of yarns that I’m using. I plan to do that when I finally get done.
  • It is clear that this sweater will be large; I can’t wait to be folded in its cushy yumminess this winter.
  • My friend Deb is developing the patterns for the floppies that she creates for her daughter and others. She has made a bunny, panda, and now my cat. I’ll alert you all as soon as her patterns go up on Ravelry.
  • Knitted cat
    Isn’t this the cutest? He sits up really well and is the most perfect floppy cat ever!!
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When in doubt, rip it out!

As you can guess from the title of this post, I hit the wall yesterday. I had been knitting for days with a growing sense that my projects *sucked* and should not see the light of day. The colors, fit or the overall concept was just off. I wanted to believe, really, I did. Yet, why knit something that won’t make you happy in the end? Pushing through on an unhappy project is probably always a bad decision.

Eclipse Knitting
Not that I’m an unhappy knitter. 🙂 Check out me (right) and my best knitting buddy Deb knitting through the eclipse last Monday. 

Yesterday morning I reached that magic moment (after texting Deb first) when I whipped out the needles from TWO DIFFERENT PROJECTS and then either put the knitted fabric into a corner to think about what it had done (a sweater) or rewound the yarn back into a ball to be re-knit (a sock).

Let’s start with the sock. I found this fabulous sock blank (I now think that sock blanks may be the best things since sliced bread…) and decided to play around with knitting a simple sock with a lace top.

Cuff of Sock
Sitting outside with MacKenzie I cast on a simple lace on one set of needles using yarn from the stash, began the ribbing for the sock with the blank on a second set of needles, and then joined them at the bottom of the ribbing. Cute, right? That sock blank is from Greenwood Fiberworks. Don’t you love the sparkles?

Right away I knew that things weren’t quite right. I make my socks in 2.25 mm needles with 64 stitches. Since the lace was a multiple of 6 stitches, I tried knitting the cuff with 66 stitches and then decreased to 64 stitches right before the join. The lace was a little too snug. The color wasn’t quite right. I kept looking at it and telling myself that it would look better as I got to the darker colors in the blank.

Sock
I’m almost done, and I still am not happy with the lace. It is too dark, and it doesn’t stick up enough, and it looked even worse on my leg as it was too snug. The color of the sock looks dull; it is that darn lace! I should have made the ribbing shorter. I should have made the lace whiter.  Why did I use that blue yarn for the afterthought heel placement: picking up stitches will be a nightmare! I hated it.

To make things worse I made a mistake on the heel (too many stitches in that section that will be the afterthought heel) and when I got to the toe I found out that I had 6 more stitches on the top than the bottom of the foot. How did I do that? The whole thing was a disappointment.

New Sock.
Whap! I pulled out the needles, ripped like crazy and had the yarn rewound for knitting in just a few minutes. 

A hunt through the stash found some Bare Hare from KnitPicks that became the new knitted cuff, and this time I cast on 72 stitches for the cuff, and decreased to 64 stitches a couple of rows before the join. The ribbing is now shorter. The sock colors look brighter. I’m much happier with this look.

Good fitting cuff on sock.
Now the sock fits my leg perfectly! Here’s the project notes on Ravelry.

I also entered the unhappy zone with the Marled Magic Sweater. I was making lots of color changes and trying to channel Stephen West while I knitted. You know what, I need to be true to myself and I should knit using the colors and vision that I had when I bought the yarns that are singing the Marled Magic song to me.

Sweater in Progress.
Really cool, but I’m being overwhelmed by all of the color striping, and I don’t think that the yarns themselves are shining like they should.

These yarns are fabulous, but they are hidden by all the color changes. I mean, look at them. I love each one of these guys. They are bursting with potential.

Yarn
Aren’t these great? I pruned out the partial skeins and kept yarns that made this collection of rose, purple and blue with lots of gray overtones.

I pulled the sweater off the needles, put the fabric off to the side, and cast on again. I picked one yarn that I loved and one mohair to go with it, and I’m going to knit the whole first block with just those two yarns. Since the sweater is a modular construction I’m going to focus on balancing colors between the blocks to make this sweater shine for me. It will be great!

First block of knitting.
Now the subtle colors in this yarn can strut their stuff. I’m really happy with the block that is emerging. That mohair makes the fabric feel fabulous, too.

I’m happy and knitting like the wind again. I can’t wait to get to the second block of this sweater. I think I’ll use one of the yarns with a lot of rose in it with a silver gray mohair. Then I’ll go with a black yarn and purple mohair. This is a way to approach the sweater that I can deal with.

Mother of Cats Sweatshirt.
Look at what my niece in California sent me last week! I’m so happy. I can’t wait for cooler weather so I can wear it.

Cooler weather! In just another month there may be snow in the forecast.

Time to make the magic happen and to crank out that sweater! I am on fire and knitting like crazy now.

Have a good week everyone.

PS: As I type this I am watching the news coverage about the horrific natural disaster that is unfolding in Texas and Louisiana here in America. My heart is broken for all of those who are displaced and dealing with disaster in their communities.  Hugs to all of you who are affected by this, and stay safe.

WIPs this Week: Marled Magic Sweater and More Jelly Rolls

I really dug in and worked on my Marled Magic sweater this week. So many colors. So many combinations. So much fun. Seriously, this is addictive knitting at its best with a big side of stash busting. I blogged about this project earlier and showed off all of the yarn I had collected to use in the sweater. I am now well into the second section of the sweater and I am feeling the magic for sure. This sweater is going to be great this winter and I am having a great time dreaming/knitting it.

Sweater in Progress.
The gray colored section at top is the first one in the sweater. I am now about half way done with the pink section in the lower part of the picture.

The sweater is knitted with one strand of fingering yarn held together with one strand of mohair. As the two are knitted together they create the marled look of the fabric.

Closeup of Knitting.
In the first section I used a single gray mohair from the stash with different fingerings that were mostly gray with pink and purple highlights.
Knitting Closeup.
In this second section I am using yarn that has more color in it and I am knitting it with pink, purple , and gray mohair. I am changing both yarn types as I knit to switch up the marl effect.
Yarn
Here are the yarns that I’m using in this second section. 

I’m have over a dozen different yarns in this section, and I have to lug around the box of yarns while I’m knitting. So… I admit it. I lost control. I cast on a small project that is easy to carry around to work on while away from home.

Sock
More Jelly Rolls socks!

I couldn’t help it. These yarns are in the bins that I’m using on the big sweater project, and as I dug through yarns to put together the combos for the second sweater section I noticed that speckled yarn. It was near the solid blue yarn, but there were those black specks in the speckled yarn too…  I started to dream about how they would look as a sock combination. Cute, right? Here are my project notes with the yarns that I used for these Jelly Rolls. There are some other sock combinations calling to me already that I’m trying to ignore while I keep working on the sweater.

It’s just crazy to think that I would have only one project going at a time.

If I cast on ANOTHER sock I may need to go buy some more needles.

Oh, little things like that have never stopped me before! 🙂

Have a good (knitting) weekend, everyone.

MacKenzie Speaks: The No Good, Horrible, Very Bad Cat Day

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Angry cat
I am so upset and angry. How could all of this happen to ME!? I’m a good boy!

I have never been so disrespected before. My day has been simply outrageous. Awful. Horrible. Beyond belief. The Mother of Cats needs to take action!

Cat
This is Cosmos. He lives next door. Doesn’t he look sweet? NOT!!

Cosmos is the cat next door. He sneaks over to MY yard and TAUNTS ME through the back garden window. Yellow Boy uses some simply shocking language while Cosmos is at the window, but I prefer to be direct. I will eat you, Cosmos! I will stick my claws into your tail so hard you will wish it could fall off…

I mean, if you are a cat with superior intellect, why not show off with some creative threats?

So, when Cosmos appeared on MY back fence this week I jumped right up there to give him a piece of my mind. The Mother of Cats trained me years ago to not jump the fence, but this was an extreme emergency. Cosmos ran like the wind to get away from me and I chased him right down the fence and out of my yard.

Like seriously, I was on the fence of the next yard over. I’d never been this far out of the yard because the Mother of Cats never lets me go anywhere interesting. Well, what should a curious cat do? I jumped down.

Back of yard.
I ended up on this patch of wet dirt behind a storage shed…
Dog.
…and who knew that there was a dog on a leash in this yard? Yikes! I was trapped.

I couldn’t jump the fence to go home, and I couldn’t get past the dog to leave the yard. Cosmos headed into his house for a nap and I was stuck hanging out behind the storage shed for OVER AN HOUR waiting for the Mother of Cats to notice that I needed help. How could she neglect my needs this way?

Finally the Mother of Cats arrived. The dog was put away, and she GRABBED me by the scruff of the neck, put me onto the fence, and then WHACKED me to force me to jump back into my yard. OK, I may have been snarling just a little bit while she was doing this. I was upset!!

Cat accident on bed.
I was so upset this happened once I got back indoors…
Sad cat.
…and then she wouldn’t let me go out for most of the afternoon. She told me that I was in the DOG HOUSE which I think was particularly mean spirited of her.
Equipment in street.
When she finally let me out late in the afternoon this was parked in the street behind the house. NO!!! How many upsetting things can happen in one day?
Equipment
These scary men were putting the cable under the sidewalk behind the house. Yellow Boy was so scared he wouldn’t even come out of the garage.  How could this be happening? Why am I having such a horrible day? 

The Mother of Cats tells me that I can only go out into the yard in the mornings from now on because she needs to be there with me. What? Doesn’t she think I can take care of myself? What disrespect! I can’t believe that she is acting this way. I’m not sure that she really loves me any more.

But she always gives me cookies when we come in from outside.

And the best places to sleep ARE in the house.

Cosmos hasn’t come back all week, so maybe I don’t need to be out there after all. Besides, there are thunderstorms every afternoon with rain, thunder and hail. Thunder is scary!

Sleeping cat.
Maybe the Mother of Cats loves me after all.

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats: The city where I live (Aurora, Colorado) has a leash law for cats; they are not allowed to run free. When I first rescued MacKenzie I installed a cat containment system from Invisible Fence and trained MacKenzie to not jump out of the back yard. He learned very quickly and hasn’t jumped for years. He has been known to jump the fence during a cat fight, but once that is over his training kicks in and he won’t jump to came back home, and is afraid of the fence when I try to put him back over it. He loves being outdoors, so from now on I’ll stay with him to supervise whenever he is outside.

Yellow Boy has never jumped the fence, and I didn’t have to train him. He is a cat with limited courage…

It has rained here for days, and the dog next door is a clever boy; he hangs out on the trampoline to stay dry. I’m waiting for him to learn tricks.

Snapshots from the Garden

The monsoon arrived right on schedule a couple of weeks ago here in Colorado. The days are now cooler, we get rainy days every week, and almost every afternoon there are thunderstorms. Some of the storms have really been memorable: serious rain, with thunder and hail. The cats have been staying inside, and the closet is getting quite a workout as they shelter in place waiting for the thunderstorms to pass.

Cat in the Closet
Is it over yet?

Yet, every thunderstorm has its silver lining. After struggling through the heat of July, the yard has burst back into bloom, and with the flowers and water I’m seeing more wildlife. Flocks of birds congregate in the back, and squirrels have been chasing each other across the roof, through the trees, and along the fence, and insects are everywhere. This morning was warm and sunny, so the cats and I returned to the yard. Here are some of the highlights.

Butterfly
The butterfly bush is now covered with blooms, and the butterflies have arrived. I think that this is a Painted Lady
Yarrow
The yarrow that I planted early this summer is now putting out new blooms.

Squirrel

Squash
My acorn squash survived the hail storms okay, but the plant lost most of its leaves. I’m hoping that the squash will make it to maturity.
Cat drinking from water
The outdoor water dish for the cats was full of fresh water. Yellow Boy moved right in.

I spent the morning drinking my latte, pulling weeds, and tending to plants that were damaged in the storms. By noon the clouds were piling up again over the mountains so the cats and I packed up and went back into the house. As I write this post the thunder is sounding, the rain is on the way, and MacKenzie is back in the closet.

Knitting time!

 

 

Embracing the Sock Blank: Part 2

It all started when I saw these sock blanks near the front door of Shuttles, Spindles & Skeins in Boulder, Colorado. So cute! Such happy colors! I had to have them.

Sock Blanks
See what I mean? Who can resist colors like these?

These are single-strand sock blanks dyed by The Hummingbird Moon, and I blogged about learning how to handle the blank to create TAAT socks that matched here. I learned a lot, loved the final socks, and had a enough yarn left over to make a pair of fingerless mitts.

Or… I could use that leftover yarn with the second sock blank to make a pair of Jelly Rolls socks. Oh. My feet totally need Jelly Rolls! They were practically chanting, Jelly Rolls! Jelly Rolls! Jelly Rolls!

Winding a sock blank.
I wound the second blank into a ball…
Sock being knitted.
…cast on, and started knitting. I’m using the left over yarn for the contrast color, and the second blank for the main color.
Socks
Here are the finished socks!
Finished Socks.
Because of the double rolls at the top of the sock they stay put on my feet just the way I want them to. 

I am so happy with these socks I’m fighting off an urge to cast on many, many more of them from the huge stockpile of leftovers from past-knit socks. The weather is cooler this week, there are birds flocking in the back yard, and my feet want socks. I can feel the pull of the fingering from the craft room even as I type this, but I am resisting the call.

I’m going back to knitting the Marled Magic sweater. It will be amazing! Stay tuned for further developments. 🙂

Finger Protectors.
The larger needles for the sweater are rubbing against some calcium deposits on a couple of my finger joints (thanks, scleroderma…), so I made some finger protectors using a pattern  that I found on Ravelry. These babies work great. Marled Magic, I am coming for you!

Have a good week everyone!

The Scleroderma Chronicles: Days of Wonder

The last time I chatted about my systemic sclerosis status I had just seen my doctors and I was doing great. I had sustained very little additional damage to my lungs and heart, I was taking a new supplement (tart cherry) that was an anti-inflammatory that my doctors thought I could tolerate, and I just flat out felt great. I could walk without pain, I had energy and I woke up most mornings feeling *normal* which was pretty darn amazing.

At the end of June I headed off to the clinic for my usual blood tests, joked with the man who draws my blood every 60 days, and bought myself a Starbucks on the way home to celebrate another successful outing. Two days later I was wondering why my blood results hadn’t been posted to the online portal. I was outside drinking my morning latte with the cats and the roses when the call came; my liver results were fine, but my kidney function had dropped dramatically. Oops. No more tart cherry for me!

Maine Coon cat with a bob tail.
Yellow Boy hanging out with my squash plants. Amazingly, he did not run away when the call came.

That’s when the days of wonder began. Wonder as in: “I wonder what will happen next?”, “I wonder what this is?”, “I wonder if I should call this into the doctor?” , and “Good grief, what now? I wonder when this will end?”

As soon as I went off of the tart cherry extract icky symptoms came back with a vengeance along with some new ones. It’s like they all made new friends while they were gone and couldn’t wait to show them off. Here’s what has been happening over the three weeks.

  • I woke up one morning with pitting edema in my arms and face. I looked like a chipmunk. I also had shooting nerve pain in one side of my face. Fabulous.
  • Two days later the edema was gone, but my knees hurt so bad they woke me up at 4am, and that was it for the night. Ugh! They also had swollen lumps on them!! In desperation I smeared medical marijuana cream (from a neighbor – this is Colorado and we have this stuff!) on them to see if that would help. The pain shut off within moments! I need to get me some of this stuff!!
  • The next day I slept through the night, but when I woke up in the morning the skin across my knees was so tight that I couldn’t bend them until I warmed things up with a heating pad. They itched and were warm to the touch. Maybe marijuana cream isn’t such a good idea after all. I’m losing patience, I tell the cats, who have piled onto my legs too since there is a heating pad in use… When will these cats learn how to make a morning latte?
  • Shooting pains start in my lower abdomen the day after my knees stop hurting. Diverticulitis, says the internet. Seriously! I wonder if I should call this in? I wonder if I should see that gastroenterologist after all…

Over the next several days I experienced scary low blood pressure episodes, chest pain, fevers, itching, more joint pain, and to top things off I started losing my balance and falling over without warning a few days ago.

Days of wonder, indeed. Nothing lasts; it appears that I’m on a roller-coaster of symptoms that will provide my summer thrills and scares until the ride ends (hopefully soon!). My repeat blood work showed that my kidney function had improved, and my rheumatologist isn’t saying scary things to me any more. My blood pressure is again stable, the chest pain and edema are gone, my balance is restored, and the pain in my face has vanished.

Cinco de Mayo rose.
This is one of the roses in my garden. It is called “Cinco de Mayo“, and I planted it in memory of my mother, who loved roses, who died on May 5th many years ago, and who remains the benchmark for all time for patience, grace and courage in the face of adversity.  Of course this rose has been blooming beautifully during these days of wonder.

This could be a really bad time, but I’ve discovered that it is best to just go with the flow and to focus on the ridiculous side of all of this; lumps on my knees, my chipmunk face, and falling over without warning. Really, don’t you just want to bust out laughing at the thought of all that? Thank heavens I didn’t develop a rash! It is also important to notice all the wonder around me. The beauty of my garden and the flowers, the days in bed reading new books, great dinners produced in the crock pot, the antics of the cats, and the joy of putting together a new knitting project. Wonder is endless, easy to find, and costs nothing. Okay, let’s be honest. Binge watching shows on Netflix helps too.

Today I feel a little dizzy, but much better. Hopefully I’m coming to the end of the tart cherry withdrawal. That’s right. Best to stay positive and cheerful.

I wonder what will happen tomorrow?