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.

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.

MacKenzie Speaks: Snow, Yarn, Orchids, Quilt

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

We have been really busy lately.

The Mother of Cats has been going crazy lately. Busy, busy, busy all of the time, and she is pretty much ignoring me. Okay, she does remember to pet me and feed me and give me cookies (she CRUSHES them up between two spoons before I get them), but is she letting me go outside into the yard any more? NO! She is not! She says it is too cold now.

Oh. That’s why the floor of the garage has been hurting my feet. It is cold. Also, for some reason the outside has turned all white.

The white stuff is also covering up the Thanksgiving wreath that the Mother of Cats and I put on the door. Okay, she put it on the door while I hunted for trouble in the front yard; we still did it together.

Anyway, we are hanging out inside all of the time now, and the Mother of Cats has just been going crazy getting lots of little things done. I mean, literally, that she has been knitting all of these little things that are too small for me to sleep on. Look at this!!

The Mother of Cats has been mass producing little items that she can carry around with her. Last week she lined them all up and did all of the finishing work. I hung out and helped her with all of the little ends of yarn. She really likes that!!
By the end of the morning all three of the mitts were finished.
And she sewed up these fun wash cloths. Did she give me these washcloths and mitts for my bed? No! She did not. They have all been packed away where I can’t get to them. Why does the Mother of Cats do these things?

You would think that the Mother of Cats would have calmed down after getting all of these little objects knitted, wouldn’t you? Instead of settling down to pet me for the rest of the afternoon she went digging in the stash to find more scraps of yarn to make another pair of mitts.

The new mitts had three different colors of yarn. What is wrong with the Mother of Cats?!! Three different balls of yarn at once?

I helped her with all of the yarns while she worked, and really kept an eye on her work. She did take the yarn off of the needles and ripped back last night… Wow! So much yarn! She let me take care of it for her while she knitted it back in. Sometimes the Mother of Cats can be kind of fun.

Tonight we got the mitts done. Look at what a good job I did with the Mother of Cats!!

Between knitting sessions the Mother of Cats and I got the sewing room cleaned up and started working on some of the many quilts that have been waiting (and waiting and waiting) for her to work on them. While it snowed this week we started quilting one of the projects.

What do you think of this? The Mother of Cats works at the machine while I sleep on the cutting table under the grow light for the plants. I love the grow light!! Why doesn’t the Mother of Cats have one of those over my cat bed? Why does she treat the plants better than me?
The Mother of Cats loves her plants almost as much as me! This plant has responded by growing stems that the Mother of Cats says will have blooms someday. Whatever. It’s not like I can eat the blooms, so who cares?

The Mother of Cats has been spending a lot of time fussing over her plants. She makes sure they get lots of light, orchid food and she even ran the window fan in the late summer to make the cold air come into the room with the plants. I don’t like the window fan, but does the Mother of Cats pay attention to my needs the way she should? NO!!

So this has been the last two weeks. Cold white stuff. Lots of little bitty knitted things that I don’t get to play with. Orchids that are no good to me that the Mother of Cats makes a big fuss about. Sewing in the evenings when the I should be getting major attention. It’s amazing that I have survived with all of this going on while my needs were being neglected.

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some (crushed) cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • MacKenzie is getting better but I’m keeping him on jaw rest, which is why he is getting crushed cookies and I’m moving him to wet food. He won’t eat his food unless I put crushed cookies on it…
  • When the cold weather arrived a few weeks ago I became consumed with the the need for more fingerless mitts and arm warmers/wristers. I dug around in the yarn stash to find leftovers from socks, and there were so many cute yarns that I just began mass producing mitt after mitt. They are the perfect carry-along in the car and I am finding them easy to do while listening to audiobooks in the evenings. I’m having fun, and if I need a quick gift in the future I am all set!!
  • I have 6 babied orchid plants. I heard that the trick to make them bloom was to subject them to significant swings in temperature in the fall; I live in Colorado where temperature extremes are a norm so I decided to try to make it happed for the plants. I closed off the sewing/orchid room overnight for a couple of weeks with the window fan blowing in cold air and this week I discovered that 5 of the 6 plants are going to bloom. Woohoo!! One plant is putting up 4 blooming stems, and I can see at least 2 stems starting on two other plants. Success!!
  • The washcloth is the Almost Lost Wash Cloth, and is one of my favorites for Christmas giving.
  • The mitt pattern is a simple one that I’ve developed over the years that works well for my cold Raynaud’s hands. I’m working myself up to publishing the pattern in a future post. Please let me know if anyone is interested.

MacKenzie Speaks: Crutches, Mountains, and Squirrels

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Do you see this ball of yarn? This is my most favorite yarn at the moment. So soft. So nice to cuddle with. The little flecks of color are my favorite.

The Mother of Cats has been somewhat difficult to work with lately. She has been limping all around the house, and yesterday her physical therapist finally told her she needs to use crutches for the next few weeks. HER CRUTCHES KEEP GETTING IN MY WAY!!! What is up with that? She doesn’t go outside as much as she used to, and she started knitting this simple sweater with just one color of yarn instead of the Koivua sweater that I just love.  There are more colors to chomp in the Koivua, and it is now so big she can’t keep me off of it while she knits. Is she working on the sweater that I can sleep on while she works? No! She is not!! She says knitting with the one color is easier to stuff into a bag to haul around with crutches. Whatever. What is up with the Mother of Cats? A little adversity and she totally folds: I’m so disappointed with her!

Except I do really like this new yarn so I’m starting to forgive her for putting the Koivua into time out. This sweater is called “Climb Every Mountain.”  What is a mountain?

Today the Mother of Cats finally let me go outside while she took pictures of all of her knitting and we watered all of the outside flowers.

Look at what happened to the blooms on the hydrangea plant over the last few days of cool weather. The flowers have turned pink again! The Mother of Cats was really happy to see the flowers. I was like… meh… laters… I have to go have a chat with that squirrel…

While I was chasing the squirrel around the yard she took these pictures of the new sweater. It is starting to look pretty good, isn’t it? It is kind of nice to sleep on…

She is now below the sleeves and getting ready to use her last ball of yarn.
Oh, yeah. Look at the new stitch markers that she made to use while making this sweater. How cute are these? She should use these to play with me!!

Now it is late in the afternoon, the squirrel has left to do whatever squirrels do, and the Mother of Cats, the crutches,  and I are back in the house. I just got some yummy salmon to eat and the Mother of Cats is getting ready to knit again. Hmm… that new sweater is getting pretty big now. Maybe I can sleep on part of it while she is working. I’m so handsome and the yarn really looks nice next to my fur. Maybe she will be reasonable for once and will let me do that. IF she loves me I will get a quality nap on yummy yarn.

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • The sweater is Climb Every Mountain by Heidi Kirrmaier. That yarn that MacKenzie loves is Tweed DK by Western Sky Knits, and it really is nice to work with. My Ravelry notes are here.
  • How ironic is it that I’m knitting a sweater called “Climb Every Mountain” while trying to master walking with one crutch?
  • The hip has become even more challenging. I met with the physical therapist yesterday who had printed out the notes from the hip specialist that I met with last month. Things are worse than I realized. I have IT band syndrome, inflamed tendons associated with my hip adductors, and then there is the severe hip bursitis.  I need to rest the tendons as much as possible as I stretch the IT band and use the topical anti-inflammatory gel that we hope will get the swelling down. Since I can’t walk without limping and the adductors need a rest I’m on crutches for the next three weeks at a minimum. I’m truly a mess as I can’t use a cane (bad wrists), ice (thank you, Raynaud’s), or work in a pool (Sjogren’s, I really hate you right now), so things are challenging, but I’m really motivated since I want to stay mobile as long as possible and I’m a poor candidate for a hip replacement.
  • MacKenzie is learning to stay out of the way of the crutches, but he is taking the whole thing personally. Poor thing. I have started giving him more cookies… I have NOT surrendered any of the sweaters to him.
  • Koivua  is waiting for the first snow fall as I rush to finish two transitional sweaters. Winter, take your time…

    Napping MacKenzie_web
    Finally!!

Late Summer Knitting

The heat here in Colorado has been unbelievable: we hit 100°F on Monday and it is still hot. My garden, however, is recovering in the lower light intensity and flowers are starting to bloom again. Feeling pretty good about things I’ve taken to knitting outside in the garden again in the cool of the mornings and late evening.

Knitting outside can be entertaining again. My sedum is blooming now and the garden where they are planted is abuzz with a steady parade of bees. This sedum is called “Autumn Joy Stonecrop” and I’m really impressed with the blooms. So are the bees, evidently!

Today while knitting and sipping my morning latte I got my latest pair of socks done.

Easiest knitting ever! I made these socks in a simple K3P1 ribbing that makes then fit well while providing mindless easy knitting in the evenings while listening to audiobooks. My project notes are here.

The yarn I used is from Western Sky Knits and I’m really becoming a fan of this smooth sock yarn. I still have enough yarn left over for some arm warmers. I think that I’ll put an interesting lace edge on then and use some Icord, but keep that simple ribbing.  Adventures in knitting, people!

Here’s the book that I’ve been listening to while knitting.

My latest audiobook has been wonderful! Seriously, I knit way too long into the night because I had to get to the next chapter to discover what would happen next. It’s a book about family, ghosts, dreams, invisible ties, and, of course, a tiger that isn’t all it appears to be. The audio is done by the author and that made things even better. I loved it.

My potted roses are all doing well after recovering from spider mite attacks early in the summer. This pink bloom makes me especially happy. I’m still debating whether I will plant these roses into the ground or bring them inside for the winter again. There’s lots of time, right?

I do love the colors of fall, but right now I’m really enjoying the bits of pink going on in my life. There is pink in my garden right now…

All of the flowers in pots on my deck have recovered and are putting out blooms. These, I think, are verbena.
I’m knitting with pink yarn using my favorite pink stitich marker.
And the sweater being knit in the pink (and cream) yarns is finally far enough along to get checked for size. A few more inches, don’t you think? Heavens, this sweater sure needs to be blocked, doesn’t it, but I’m really pleased that it looks like it will fit okay. This is Koivua by Caitin Hunter, and my project notes are  here.

Today is the last day of high heat for awhile; a front is pushing in and tomorrow will be much cooler. Okay, it will be hot, but not blazing hot. Hopefully there will also be some rain. There’s lots of time yet for roses, knitting in the garden, and days watching bees.

Oops. A flock of geese just flew over my house at the treetops, honking like crazy. It’s like they are laughing at me. No matter what is happening right now with the weather and in my garden, autumn is coming, and the first snow is on the way.

Woohoo! Knitting weather!

Have a good weekend, everyone.