The Saturday Update: Week 5

I’m back up on my feet again (so long, flu!) and getting stuff done. I managed to run errands, went back to Kaiser for MORE testing, took MacKenzie to the vet again, and managed to cook some yummy meals to set me up for the week. Oh, yeah, I am back to knitting, too.

Knitting
I’m working on the knitted version of MacKenzie again and I can’t tell you how thrilled MacKenzie is with my progress!
I’ve completed the upper body knitting and I’m ready to put on the ears and the eyes. I’m still debating how to create the furry brown belly of the knitted cat along with the white chin. These creative decisions take a while.
See what I’m talking about? MacKenzie’s belly is brownish and has longer fur then on his back. Somehow I want to create this with the mohair I already have on hand…

My favorite yarn store posted a picture on Facebook showing off the new February yarns… there is a plum that I want desperately and some red looks pretty darn good too. Beautiful yarn. Must have it now!! Tomorrow it will snow, so I should have my yarn, right?!!

Garden

The orchids continue to grow their flower stems and some of the buds are starting to look promising. I gave everyone a nice misting and fertilizer this week, so I am counting on them to produce some bloomy fabulousness.

The little white orchid plant is outdoing itself! I’m amazed at how many stems and blooms this little plant is producing. I moved it into the kitchen for the western light and it gets misted almost every day along with the African violet.
Back in the sewing room one of the other orchids has finally opened up a bud. This plant, the most sickly appearing of my orchids, is bravely producing small purple blooms.

One of the other orchid plants is a monster and I need to move it into a better location as the stems carrying the flower buds are almost into the grow lights. I think that this plant will produce rose gold blooms… can’t wait to see them! Next week I will get up some pictures of this plant.

Books
I knitted the cat while listening to the Dutch House. Perfect match!

This week was an audible book one as I listened to Tom Hanks perform the Dutch House. This was a good book, but not a great one. There is this fabulous house that captures, alters, and anchors the lives of generations of occupants. The people leave the house, but they never really ever get away, and even though the story sort of just goes on and on, I was completely captured and my days were filled with knitting the cat and listening to Tom Hanks tell about the families captured by the house.

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.

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?

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.

MacKenzie Speaks: So This Was Christmas… A Tale of Chaos and Knitted Gifts

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Here I am spending Christmas Eve at the Emergency Vet Clinic

I haven’t been feeling all that well for awhile. To be fair, the Mother of Cats has been spending a lot of time trying to be nice to me. She gets me special food. She washes my ears every day before I get my medicine. She has gotten more blankets and beds for me to sleep in.

My favorite is the fluffy fleecy locks that she has added to my favorite cat bed that is located right next to her knitting spot.

Things just aren’t going well for me right now, and Monday was the worst. I couldn’t use my cat box no matter how hard I tried. I couldn’t walk right. I kept vomiting and it hurt so bad I couldn’t help myself… some horrible yowls came out before I could stop them. It was really late at night but the Mother of Cats threw me into my cat carrier and off to the Kitty ER we went. The radio played some Christmas music as we drove through the night. Thankfully the streets were dry and we made good time.

Once I got to the ER I got a nice pink towel to make me feel calm and I met a  nice lady vet who said that my tummy was really hard and tight. NO KIDDING!!! Then the fun started. I got whisked away from the Mother of Cats and taken back into the bowels of the clinic. They put me to sleep so I could have x-rays. They did nasty things to my bottom and gave me an enema. They cut off all of my nails!!! Christmas Eve arrived while I was being taken to the x-ray machine. Hours later they sent me home again with new drugs, special food, and a very sore bottom. WHY DID THIS HAVE TO HAPPEN TO ME?

I was so tired that I didn’t move off the Mother of Cats’ bed all day Christmas and didn’t even use the cat box once.

Hamster ignoring cat and eating a carrot.
Do you remember that I have a mouse of my very own call Pitty-Pat? (I know she really is a hamster, but I like to think of her as a mouse. She’s mine, and I’m calling her a mouse!!)

While I was getting the luxury spa treatment at the Kitty ER (NOT!!) Little Miss Pitty-Pat escaped from her cage and went on an adventure exploring the house. She dragged piles of my cat food into her cage! She took some of my wooly fleece out of my cat bed and put it into her bed in the cage. She slept in her cage Christmas Day so the Mother of Cats thought I was eating lots of the new food and never suspected what was up. Poor Mother of Cats. She tries hard but we really are too much for her.

At 2am in the morning on the day after Christmas I noticed Pitty-Pat running around on the floor of the bedroom. The Mother of Cats woke up when I ran over her to get to Pitty-Pat. Pitty-Pat ran behind the dresser and holed up underneath. The Mother of Cats just ignored me, sprang into action, and began building a barricade of blankets, pillows and furniture to keep Pitty-Pat trapped in that corner of the room. She just acted like I wasn’t there!! Fine, I didn’t want to play with Pitty-Pat anyway since I feel pretty darn TERRIBLE  and my bottom hurts! I gave up and went to sleep in the sewing room while the Mother of Cats moved furniture, trapped Pitty-Pat, repaired her cage, and finally calmed down enough to go back to sleep. It was 4am by that time and I was ready to move back into the big bedroom anyway. The down comforter on that bed is my favorite!

The next day the Mother of Cats shoved ANOTHER pill down my throat and I finally began using my cat box again. I now feel a little better, but I have to eat food that I don’t like, and the Mother of Cats keeps putting more medicine on my ears. The vet has called twice since my visit to the ER and I couldn’t help hearing that I need to come back in a few weeks to get more testing. What a yucky Christmas I am having here! Pitty-Pat seems to be having a really nice one, however…

Enough about me. I bet that you want to see the Christmas knitting, don’t you. Here it is!

The Mother of Cats and I made these fabulous Christmas Gnomes. Just perfect for cat toys, don’t you think?
We also whipped out these wristers to wear on cool days alone or on really cold days under the sleeve of a sweater. I really liked this cashmere mix yarn; almost as nice as the fleece in my cat bed.
We also made a set of fleece-stuffed pincushions for the Mother of Cat’s cousin made from yarn that came from her trip to Peru.

That’s it. Not that much knitting happened this Christmas unless you want to include the knitted Cat that the Mother of Cats and I are still working on. It looks a little wonky right now, but we are going to work on it this weekend and hopefully it will be done by the end of the year. I can’t wait to write a post showing it off to all of you.

I’m such a good boy!

Can I have something nice to eat instead of the yucky new food?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • Those excessively cute Gnomes are the pattern “Here We Gnome Again” by Sarah Schira.
  • The wristers are a mash-up pattern that I put together this fall. I recorded what I did in the notes on my Ravelry project page.
  • The pincushions are made with yarn that my cousin got on her trip to Peru this fall along with some Peruvian yarn that I had in the stash. The pattern is Chloe’s Cushions by Yamagara and is free.
  • MacKenzie is struggling with several medical issues at the moment. He is being treated for hyperthyroidism and developed severe constipation; who knew this is a medical emergency in cats? The x-rays and exam revealed several other problems including kidney disease, stones in his bladder, arthritis, and an enlarged spleen. There is some concern that he has cancer, but we are spending the next month working on the issues that can be treated right now with medications (the bladder stones, constipation, and hyperthyroidism), and after seeing where we following an ultrasound next month the vet and I will decide next steps.
  • The new food is supposed to dissolve the stones in MacKenzie’s bladder.
  • The medicine that I smooth onto the insides of MacKenzie’s ears is for the hyperthyroidism.
  • What was the pill that I had to shove down MacKenzie’s throat you ask? A stool softener, of course. It worked!!
  • I got a weighted blanket for Christmas and MacKenzie has taken it over as his own. Of course. It’s like getting hugged while you sleep. If ever there was a kitty who deserved some hugs, it’s this guy.

Final Push Towards Christmas: Knitted Cat and Plants

Almost all of my gifts are made and in the mail on their way to their new homes. It is a huge relief to have them out the door, but I still can’t show them off until next week. Gee, it’s hard to blog when I’m spending most of my time on the Christmas making drive but I can’t show things off. Would you like to see some of my plants?

After months of care the African violet suddenly decided to bloom! About time, little guy, I was almost ready to give up on you…
Five of my six orchid plants are getting ready to bloom this season too. I’ve been feeding these orchids every month, spraying them every few days to keep the humidity high, and subjected them to big swings in temperature early in the fall in an effort to encourage blooming. 
One is putting up four blooming stems! I think that this plant will produce white blooms, but the others will have purple and orange/gold blooms. How cheerful my sewing room will be this winter.
Even one of the roses that I brought indoors for the winter has started blooming this week!

There is one big knitted gift that I can show off as I’m working on it in coolaboration with the recipient.

It’s a cat!

This knitted cat is a gift for my younger son whose cat Daxter died unexpectedly from an undetected cancer last September.

Daxter with his Christmas mouse last year. Daxter was a wonderful companion, extremely expressive and very bonded to my son. Truely an extraordinary cat! The loss has been great and there is a hole in the apartment where he used to sleep. 

Ironically, I had bought some of the yarn for the knitted cat just days before Daxter’s sudden death. Shocked at the sudden turn of events, I put the yarn away for awhile, but finally took it back out two weeks ago and got started on the knitted cat as a Christmas gift for my son. It’s bittersweet for sure, but it feels good to create something that honors Daxter and acknowledges the loss.

This knitted cat is going to be almost life sized!! There is a hole in the face where the ear is going to be. MacKenzie reluctantly agreed to model the knitted cat so you get an idea of how it will look later with the ears on. The knitted fabric is created with three strands of yarn held together; I’m working with a silk-mohair lace yarn, a silk-alpaca lace yarn, and a fingering wool. The different colors in the cat are created by changing one or more strands of yarn as I work.
You can see how big this cat is going to be.

I’m working like crazy on the cat now and I plan to get it done in time for Christmas. The cat’s eyes are ordered and on their way from China; hopefully they will get here in time. I have started to add some stripes and will knit in others. I can’t wait to get the ears on!! I am so impressed with the shaping and detail in this project, and I also have to say that the pattern is very straight-forward and has lots of great picture and video support. If you would like to create your own cat the pattern is Cat by Claire Garland.

Oh yeah. There is a new kitten in my son’s apartment. I hope that he likes this knitted cat too.

This is Jonesy.

MacKenzie Speaks: All the Little Things

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

I’ve been taking a nap in the sewing room while the Mother of Cats finishes up all of her morning chores.

The Mother of Cats has been going crazy for days now. She knits and sews and fusses over little projects endlessly! It has to do with Christmas, which is strange since she hasn’t put up the Christmas tree yet. I love the Christmas tree: best cat toy ever!! I worry about the Mother of Cats. She has so many projects cast on at the moment the coffee table in the family room is buried. There are project bags in the bed. She left knitting needles on the table where my cookies are supposed to be. She has quilting stuff all over the craft room. SHE IS OUT OF CONTROL!!!

There is a lot going on, and she can’t show off all of it because… Christmas… but here are some of the little projects in progress:

This is going to be a gnome that will be going on our fireplace mantel.
This little chunk of knitted wonder is going to be a pincushion. She is kind of mass producing these little gems. If she filled the pouch with catnip it would actually be useful…
She has also made a bunch of these little wristers, too. They all are very soft and I love to sleep with them. Is she making them to give to me? No! SHE IS NOT!! What is wrong with the Mother of Cats?
She is keeping this cowl in a plastic bag so I can’t drag it into my cat bed. I am shocked that she has resorted to this! The Mother of Cats needs to rethink her priorities. Cowls are for cats, right?!!

The good news is that since the Mother of Cats is knitting so much I am getting lots of attention and naps right by her side. She lets me have a cookie every once in a while, but mostly I am getting lots of wet food meals and she lets me eat whatever I want! Tuna! Liver! Stinky shrimp and fish!! I want it all and she gives me a fresh can twice a day. Maybe the Mother of Cats does pay attention to my needs after all.

She also puts medicine on my ear twice a day, but I kind of like the attention so that is okay.

I’m such  good boy.

Can I have some (not crushed) cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

I am in full production mode now as the holidays are closing down on me. I’m listening to books on tape, binge watching Netflix and mass producing little knitted and sewn items. I’m having fun and the little items are just jumping off my needles now. Here are the patterns:

  • The Gnome is Here We Gnome Again by Sarah Schira
  • The pincushions are from the pattern Chloe’s Cushions by Yamagara.   This is a free pattern, is so fun to knit, and there are three different cushions: must knit faster!!
  • The cowl is Mount Moran Lace Cowl by Selena Miskin. MacKenzie is a fan of the silk/mohair and yak yarns so I do have to keep it bagged!
  • I’m refining the wrister pattern as I work; I’m now on the 4th version of my pattern. I’m thinking that another free pattern is coming your way. I’m making all of them in cashmere blend superwash merino fingering and they are heaven to wear under the cuffs of sweaters! The cashmere is why MacKenzie likes them so much. He’s a cat who knows what he likes!!
  • I still haven’t tried to figure out how to put patterns on Ravelry. Maybe when I get the Christmas gifts into the mail.
  • Did I mention that I have some sewing to get done too? Busy days!!
  • Did MacKenzie mention how much he likes to wear his antler hat?