The Yarn Warrior

Last night I knitted like crazy and got my Reyna shawl (by Noora Laivola) finished. I wet blocked it overnight (hoping that sleeping kitties won’t notice it…) and this morning I took it outside to the garden swing to finish it up while I was watering the lawn. Of course my cat MacKenzie couldn’t resist helping out.

Cat chomping shawl
Oops! I didn’t realize he was hanging out under the swing… At least he’s predictable in that he never missed an opportunity to chomp!
Shawl in tree
Here it is rescued from the cat. Isn’t it a fun mix of garter stitch and mesh? Here are my project notes on Ravelry.

This shawl was a fast and easy project, but I learned a lot of new things while working on it and it led to some new insights. After all, while I love to knit, I really am more driven to play with new yarns, patterns and ideas more than I need a new shawl (or pair of socks for that matter). Every new project is an opportunity to learn something new!

I first selected this pattern because I had a skein of wickedly soft and colorful yarn in my stash. I knew that the colors would go with everything in my wardrobe, but there were so many of them in the skein that I needed a way to show them off without nasty pooling or something that looked muddy.

Yarn
This is Zen Yarn Garden’s Serenity 20 in the colorway Confetti. See what I mean about the colors? 
Closeup of Shawl
I knew that garter stitch plays well with multicolored yarn, and I was hoping that the mesh would break the colors up a little more and help each one shine. Mission accomplished! The yarn looks really different in the two sections of the shawl and the colors each stand out.

There are YO stitches to each side of the center stitch in the garter section. Hard to see aren’t they? That’s because they are hidden by knitting in the back loop of the YO on the wrong side row. Who knew? By hiding the YO stitches the garter stripe stands out better between the mesh segments.

I also noticed a difference in the mesh. Normally K2tog stitches slant to the right. In the mesh section of the shawl the K2tog creates a slant that goes to the left. Check it out!

Mesh stitch
See the left slant? This was knit by [yo, K2tog] stitches that repeated every other row (all stitches purled on the wrong side).
Mesh closeup
The right slanting mesh was created by the opposite type of decrease stitch: [yo, ssk] repeated across the row. Once again the stitches on the wrong side were purled. The designer balanced the direction of the mesh slant around the center stitch of the shawl. Cool! 
As I was knitting along I realized that my ball of yarn was starting the shrink a little faster than I wanted it to. Yikes! How can I be sure to use as much as possible while leaving enough for the last three garter rows and then the BO?  Well, this is when a yarn warrior really digs in and takes control.

Row Tracker
Look at what Noora gave us in the pattern! Wow, isn’t this a nice idea. In fact, it made me think that all patterns should be organized as a table with the rows, stitch count, the pattern, weight of the yarn and a place to make tally marks. I mean, why does the entire thing have to be written out? See how I started tracking how much my ball of yarn weighed every 4 rows? I decided to switch to the last 4 rows as soon as I had only 8 grams left. (8 rows of the mesh section were skipped)
Yarn on balance.
This is how many grams of yarn I had left over after binding off.

See, it isn’t about the final object (OK, it is a little). It’s about being a YARN WARRIOR!! Capture the learning and master the craft. Be at one with the cashmere and bond with your fellow knitters.

Isn’t this why we all do it?

 

 

FO: Garden Swing is Done!!

Cool weather with thunderstorms arrived this week and I headed out to the back yard to finish up the garden swing. I had crocheted the largest part of the seat a couple of weeks ago and gotten it sewn onto the frame of the swing; a good start but still not usable. What I needed to do now was to remove the seat from the rest of the chair so that I could crochet side panels to attach the seat onto the sides of the frame. I attacked the bolts with my handy little tool kit and got the part holding the seat off and onto the lawn where I could work on it in the shade.

Cat on chair seat.
As soon as I got that seat off the rest of the chair frame Mr. Helpful moved right in.
MacKenzie helping.
The help just kept on coming as I crocheted side panels to attached the seat to the sides of the frame. I used my foot to put tension on the twine while I worked which put the working materials too close to MacKenzie the chomper.

Even with all the help and a break for a thunderstorm I got the side panels crocheted and sewn onto the frame after a couple of mornings. Today after lunch I reattached the seat to the swinging frame and then I was back in lawn chair business.

Completed seat.
Here’s the completed seat with the sides attached to the frame. A little on the ugly side, but functional.
Cushions on swing.
Yeah! The swing is done and the cushions are back on it; I pulled the ties for each cushion through the crocheted mesh and then knotted them in the back. My outdoor knitting spot has been restored.

I’m still not completely happy with the tension on the seat of the swing so I’m going to use it for a couple of days and then will take in a tuck or two on the seat fabric to make it more taunt. Still, things are looking up; I am back outside for my morning latte. Happy, happy day!

Cat on the finished swing.
Final product is cat approved. 🙂

Outdoor knitting, here I come!

FO: August Socks are done!

August! This is my favorite part of summer. The flowers are blooming like crazy, the monsoon is cranking moisture up to Colorado for afternoon showers, and the hummingbirds and butterflies are cruising through the backyard every morning. The cats and I have been outside too for knitting and bug chasing.

I finished my August socks while sitting out in the garden this morning. Since the cats have been hanging out with me the entire time I was knitting these socks I thought MacKenzie might enjoy posing with them.

Cat and Socks
MacKenzie is my good boy. Usually if I just slowly ease my knitted items into his personal space he’s OK with things. Today that back foot came right up…
Cat and Socks
He flashed his “this is completely unauthorized and you are now in trouble” look,
Cat and Socks
and there was a chomp. Luckily he wasn’t very serious in his protest and I was able to extract the socks (and my foot) without any damage. Don’t you just love cats? It would have been nice if he had given a little warning noise first, but no, he had to go right to the claws and teeth!

OK. Message received. Having been denied assistance by the cat most likely to cooperate I decided to pose the socks on one of the garden tables. (I know; very boring but no teeth!!) Look at how great the Seafoam Stitch shows off the yarn!!

Finished Galvez Socks
I decided to stop the seafoam pattern at the top of the foot because I usually wear socks inside of lace-up shoes or boots during the winter. I lightly steamed the seafoam portion of the sock with my steam iron to set the stitches which really calmed the knitting down.
Socks on my feet.
The stockinette fits my fat little foot better too. I’m really happy with the way these came out.

These socks are the  Galvez Socks by Debbie Haymark. The pattern is in my copy of Lace One-Skein Wonders edited by Judith Durant. Here are the project notes on Ravelry.

Gosh, I finished those fast. There’s lots of August left before I need to think about socks again. I promised a friend to help out during Alpaca Farm Days next month. I feel an urge to knit lots of little fingerless mitts (out of alpaca of course!!) to show off (and sell!) to visitors to the farm… 🙂

I can feel the midnight knitting coming on!

Friday Update: Knitted Tee and a Lawn Swing Seat

I’ve been gardening and reading more lately (I have finished three of the “Bee Books” and am pondering what I should write about them…) so my knitting projects have been languishing a little bit. Nothing is finished. Nothing. Not even halfway done. I have been busy enough to get some things started, however!

Tee
I have made some progress on my Clover HItch Tee by Courtney Cedarholm. The very wide neck keeps worrying me, but when I check the picture with the pattern I am reassured to see that the original has a large neck opening too. 
Close-up of sweater.
The yarn is one that I found in my stash that is a rayon/linen blend knitted tape. It’s a little crisp and is working up “heavy”. I continue to be hopeful that all will be well as I knit. Here are my project notes on Ravelry.

I finally got started on an outdoor project this week too. Check out my very bare and exceedingly lonely garden swing.

Frame for lawn swing
Look at this. So sad. Poor naked swinging lawn chair. The original fabric seat rotted away and I just hate to give up on this perfectly good frame. Time to make a new seat!
Jute garden twine.
The local hardware store had some jute garden twine in this nice green. I looked at it and thought… crocheted seat for the garden swing! I bought the entire box.
Crochet hook.
Off I headed to Hobby Lobby to find the largest crochet hook that they had. OK, this is the second largest, but it’s pretty big. 🙂 You can see the fabric of the seat that I am making in the picture. I decided on single crochet using two of the twines held together as I was worried about weak spots in the twine. The width of the piece of fabric that I’m making is a few inches narrower than the actual chair.
Tension of the yarn.
I had some issues with handling the stiff jute and keeping enough tension on the yarn so it wouldn’t twist and flip around. This is why we have toes, right?
Cat attacking yarn.
The other difficulty with the project is fending off helping cats. Sigh. I’m trying to work on the seat each morning in the cool outdoors while drinking my morning latte. That’s also the prime time for cat friskiness and general misbehavior.

I’m working steadily on both projects at the same time. The crocheted swing seat is making progress in the mornings as that is a good time to work outside with it, and the Clover HItch Tee is growing every evening while I indulge in a little binge television. Right now I’m watching the series Fargo on DVD. Wow! What a good production. A little dark (OK, really dark at times…), but still excellent. And the way those people talk? I’m Swedish-American, and the social norms and speech of the Fargo characters is the language of my childhood. By the time these projects are done and I’m finished with Fargo I’ll be in my swing in the garden and talking in the language I used to hear while sitting in my Grandmother’s kitchen learning how to crochet. The circle is unbroken after all. How cool is that?

Way cool! You betcha!

 

 

Gardening for Cats and Bees

I just finished reading my first “Bee” book, A Sting in the Tale by Dave Goulson. This book was a quick friendly read about bumblebee biology, ecology, and the efforts to build habitat in the United Kingdom that will support and grow wild bumblebee populations. One of the techniques that the researchers in the book utilized to detect bumblebees was to have observers sit in their garden (or some other location) for 20 minutes to tally the number of bees they saw.

I’ve been a little sad over the absence of a strawberry crop this year, and I thought that it was due to a lack of bees. As I read the book, however, I realized that many of the bees that I have seen in the past were actually bumblebees. I plant a lot of  flowers that should be attracting bees, too. Late yesterday afternoon I headed out to the garden for 20 minutes with my camera to see what was actually going on out there.

Bee
Well look at that! There is steady bee traffic to some of the plants in the garden. All those hairs on the abdomen of the bee is the tip off that this is a bumblebee. Aren’t those red bands on the bee cute?

A little search of the internet led me to believe that this is a Bobmus huntii bee. The bees were really targeting purple flowers yesterday afternoon. I saw them on the lavender, this catmint plant, and on the pincushion flowers. I don’t know why my strawberry plants were a flop this year, but maybe is was due to a very wet and cold spring that made it hard for bees to get to them. I learned that bumblebees struggle in those conditions as they need to maintain enough heat to work their flight muscles. Who knew?!

As I was sitting out with the bees and the flowers I realized that while I have a lot of plantings that attract wildlife, I have actually made my yard and garden into a habitat for cats. Check out what I’ve done for them.

Cat in catmint plant.
As you can imagine, the catmint is a big favorite with the cats. The plant is really hardy, doesn’t need a lot of water and tolerates cats building nests inside of them. Yellow Boy sleeps inside this nest with the bumblebees buzzing over his head.
Uncut grass under the tree.
I leave a little circle of grass and plants around the base of one of my trees as the cats like to sleep in the tall grass. Easy solution to cats needing shade in the summer sun. One year a visiting cousin cut all the grass thinking that she was doing me a big favor. Sigh…
Cat in grass.
The grass nest is a big hit with MacKenzie.
Cat water dish.
I bought a nice saucer for large pots at the nursery and now it is a source of water for summer kitties. I hose it out and put in fresh water each morning. 
Lavender and invisible fence wire.
This lavender draws a lot of bees. Behind the plant attached to the fence you can see a wire. The wire is part of the invisible fence system that I put up to train the cats to not jump out of the yard. They trained really quickly and I haven’t activated the fence for the last 3 years. The bricks at the bottom of the fence are plugging small gaps.

Squirrels use the yard constantly and provide the cats with some quality exercise as they chase them, but I no longer put out food for squirrels. They have been raiding a neighbor’s trash and burying stuff in my planters, so they get little else from me. I used to have a bird feeder and nesting boxes in the yard, and I really liked the birdsong and the activity was hours of entertainment for the cats (who really never managed to catch anything, but they loved to try!). I discovered that the birds also attracted other cats (AKA enemy cats!!) so I had to stop putting out food. Even an invisible fence will not keep a cat in the yard who chasing out an invader!

Now my cats think they are dogs. They make me get up in the morning to let them out, mill around the door carrying on as soon as I come home, and are happy to go in and out all day through a cat door.  They come running in from the yard when I shake the kitty treat bag, and stay in all night (asleep!) like good boys.  I can do cat-free crafting activities during the day (like warping my loom) while they happily doze outside dreaming of bugs and garter snakes. By making the yard an appealing habitat for my kitties they stay put and are safe outside.

Crazy cat-gardening lady, huh! Some of my friends think it is strange to let my animals tunnel thought plantings, but they are just a part of my overall scheme. After reading Dave Goulson’s book I also realized that this isn’t just a backyard; it is also important habitat for wildlife in the city. I will be putting in more plants with an eye to supporting bumblebees (who evidently are critical to the pollination of strawberries and tomato plants!). Later this summer my butterfly plants should get going and there will be hummingbirds and butterflies for kitty entertainment. Everyone wins!

I wonder what other people are planting for cats?