FO Tee, a Garden Swing, and an Excited Spinning Wheel.

I know that I have been a little whiny lately. I started methotrexate a little over a month ago and the adjustment to the new medication has been challenging to say the least. This week was better. Much better.  So sorry for the whining. I promise hope that I won’t be doing that again for a long time. Check out all the things that were accomplished this week.

Knitted Tee
I got the Clove HItch Tee finished! Here are the project notes on Ravelry.
Tee Sleeve.
Look at how cute the lace detail is on the sleeve. This yarn is a linen blend and will be cool to wear even though it is a worsted weight knit.

The whole time I was knitting this tee I worried about how big the neck opening was. As soon as it was cast off the needles I tried it on, and yep, too big. I ran a drawstring around the neckline on the inside to draw it up a little and to prevent more stretching. Neckline problem totally fixed: it fits great! The top is loose and a comfy layering piece. I’m thinking that I would like to make a second one with long sleeves using a winter yarn that will be lighter in weight. Maybe in navy blue. I plan to keep that garter stitch band on the sleeve and will continue the sleeves in stockinette below the band.

Crocheted lawn seat.
I have now crocheted the entire back of the lawn swing and am continuing on to make the seat. I draped this over the back of the swing; it’s longer than it looks in the picture.

The lawn seat is coming right along. The fabric will stretch when I sew it into place so it will be more open looking when it is done. I haven’t completely decided how to attach it to the side pieces of the frame. I’m afraid that the attachment solution won’t be very elegant, but hopefully it will be functional.

Wednesday I went out to visit a friend’s alpaca ranch (she has sheep too!!). I am consumed with jealousy. Such cool animals wearing fabulously cool fiber; she has a whole dyeing and processing operation going. I didn’t take any pictures because next week there will be a summer camp there and I get to teach kids how to spin! Ha! Stay tuned for the summer camp report. 🙂

Today I took the car to get its oil changed and battery replaced. I know that this sounds like a small thing, but I am rocking my good week and getting a lot of things done. After I got home I cleaned out the garage and packed my spinning wheel into the car because tomorrow we go to a class to learn how to spin camelid fibers.

Spinning Wheel
Look! The wheel is already strapped into the car and ready to go. It is so excited! This is its first trip out in almost a year; no more sulking in the corner for this little guy.

That’s right. I still have a bag of paco-vicuna that I am nervous about spinning. The spinning class is taught by Chris Switzer who has quite a reputation as a master spinner of these fibers in this part of the world. I am taking the paco-vicuna bag and a chunk of my alpaca fleece with me to the class to get feedback on spinning techniques for the yarn that I dream of creating. Not that I’m intimidated, but the class registration says to bring some things that I’ve made from my homespun yarn with me. I have spent an hour finding things that I’ve made; I’ve decided to only take two three things. Maybe three is too many? If I take two substandard items she might think it’s a fluke. If I have three, it’s pretty sure that’s the type of spinner I am. Whatever. It’s best to not overthink this. I’ll take three that I like and that will be that. I’m taking the class with a friend who likes to spin crazy lace weight yarn and it is going to be wonderful!!

I finished reading all of the bee books this week too. I feel another post coming on. Some of the books were a little bit of a chore to finish, others were just amazing. Hmmm….

July Resolution Socks

Oh my goodness, it is almost the middle of July and I haven’t started on the New Year’s Resolution socks for the month yet. I’m still working on the seat for the swinging lawn chair and my Clove Hitch Tee from the last post, but when did the thought of having another project on the needles ever slow me down? I mean, seriously, if I’m juggling less than a dozen different UFOs I’m good. There’s only two more weeks left to the month, so this is sort of an emergency!!!

Off to the knitting book stack I sent. I have a couple of books on top that I’ve marked with socks that I like, so it was pretty easy to select a pattern. The sock pattern that I picked has a busy lace pattern, so I dug through the yarn stash to find a sock yarn with little color variation and settled on a cashmere blend with the colorway of Fire Dragon. July, fire works, fire dragon. It was a fit. So, with no further ado, here are the socks for the month:

Close-up of knitted lace.
Isn’t this the best lace pattern? It looks like cables but there aren’t any lumpy twists; the texture is created by the lace pattern. This yarn is Opulent Fingering from MJ Yarns. Here are the project notes on Ravelry.
Sock Pattern
The pattern is Lacy Cable Socks from the book by Veronik Avery, Knitting 24/7. The heels and toes are done in garter stitch. That will be new…

I cast on yesterday and started knitting these babies while sitting out in the shade on my deck. It was kind of a breezy day and a little overcast, so it wasn’t too hot to knit. I really like knitting outside with the flowers and visiting wildlife. Check out this visitor.

Swallowtail Butterfly.
I still have lots of bees visiting the plants, but this week there has been an invasion of these Swallowtail butterflies. The cats are in heaven chasing along on the ground under these guys!

The year is more than half gone and for once I haven’t fallen off the resolutions. Of course, when it is socks it is a little easier to keep on track. Hot weather returns Thursday so I have one more day of outdoor knitting. Yeah! With some luck I’ll be done with the first sock by then. Of course, if I had the crocheted seat done for the the swinging garden seat it would be even nicer to knit outside. Sigh. So many projects, so little time. 🙂

Must keep working!!

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?