MacKenzie Speaks: The Christmas Knitting Frenzy has Commenced!

Hi I’m MacKenzie.

Cat and knitting.
Do you see what is draped across me?

This year the Mother of Cats began to panic really early. She began digging through the yarn stash and tossing skeins of yarn through the air before we had even made it to Turkey Day. (Turkey. I love turkey!! Every year I get to chow down on all the turkey that I can eat, so I remember this!) “Must knit this year, must knit this year,” she kept muttering. Really strange, Mother of Cats. More strange than usual.

Must have something to do with the new furnace that I didn’t get to play with while the worker-men were busy in the crawl space under the house. This is how mean the Mother of Cats is… SHE LOCKED ME INTO A BEDROOM!!! while the furnace was being installed. I love playing in the crawl space. Why is the Mother of Cats so mean to me?

Anyway, now we have a new furnace, and the Mother of Cats has turned into a knitting machine. She is completely out of control. She is neglecting me. She has more projects started than she can count. There are bins of yarn all over the downstairs work room. She made a spreadsheet to figure out her knitted Christmas presents.

Yarn and cat.
Do you see how out of control she is?

Some of her presents are hidden away and can’t be shown off yet, but here are the ones that she will let me show off because a couple of them will go into the mail tomorrow.

Mitts
These are little mitts for her sister who just moved to a colder climate. Do you like that yarn? It is yak, silk and wool, and is really yummy for chomping…
Sockhead Hat.
This hat matches the mitts. The sister of the Mother of Cats has never lived in a place with snow before, so this hat should keep her ears dry. The sister should try walking in snow with cat feet!
Close to You shawl,
This little shawl is being knitted in Christmas colors for the Mother of Cats to wear to her book club next week. Knit faster, Mother of Cats! Book club is next Thursday. Have you started your book yet?

All of this crazy knitting, and I am sad to tell you that the Mother of Cats has not put the pumpkins away yet, and the Christmas tree is still in the CRAWL SPACE. I would be happy to go down there to find it for her, but no, does the Mother of Cats ever let me do anything that is fun? No. She does not! I want the tree. Best cat toy ever!

Happy cat.
Except let me eat turkey. She did let me have more of that tonight.

Tonight we are going to work on that shawl some more and maybe cast on another couple of projects. The Mother of Cats seems to think that if she starts knitting something it is like it is already done. Silly Mother of Cats!

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • The project notes and the pattern that I used for the mitts are on my Ravelry Project page.
  • The Hat is the Sockhead Slouch hat. Wow. This is the first time that I have made this, and I am struck with the need to have one for myself. I need to do some more stash shopping to find a yarn for myself that is a soft as the one I used for my sister. Project notes are here.
  • My sister just relocated from the San Diego area to Oregon. It’s not really an extreme winter there, but I think that she will have to deal with below freezing temperatures and some nasty weather, so the hat and mitts are flying west to here tomorrow.
  • The shawl is Close to You. Hey, this pattern is free, easy to knit, and really nice to wear. My project notes are here.
  • I have 5 more WIPs going at the moment. Slowly, but surely, the pile of finished Christmas knitting is growing…
  • October was pretty darn expensive for me. I put the license plates onto my new car, had the cedar fence replaced, and then bought a new furnace. The good news is that I don’t have to worry about my car break breaking down, or the fence blowing over, or the furnace failing. Peace of mind comes at a cost, but is nice all the same. I hope that everyone loves their homemade presents!
  • The book that I need to finish in the next few days is The Nest by  Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney. I’ll let you all know what I think about it. I have been reading a lot, and when I take a break from the knitting I should tell you all about them. I’ve really been scoring some good reads lately.
Advertisements

Fall is Here: Armwarmers and Mitts

This really snuck up on me fast; one day I’m kicking myself for planting cold weather pansies that immediately died in a September heat wave, and the next I’m bringing in all of the outdoor potted plants to protect them from an overnight frost. Here in Colorado there weren’t many transition days and the heat pretty much kept up until the first snowflake arrived. Last week the dreaded word SNOW first appeared in the nightly weather forecast and I immediately dragged out a couple of projects that had been languishing over the summer.

Fimgerless mitts.
Little handwarmers made from a yak blend yarn.

These fingerless mitts were made for an old student who was badly injured last month in a accident on her way to work. She is still on crutches, the cold weather is on the way, and I simply didn’t quite know what to do for her other than contributing to her Go Fund Me campaign. Oh yeah. I knit! I was able to produce some soft comfy mitts from some Yakity Yak yarn (Greenwood Fiberworks) in the stash. The mitts are now hers, and I hope so much that she continues to make an amazing recovery.  The project notes can be found here, and I wrote up the pattern that I used for these simple mitts in an earlier project’s notes that you can access if you want to make some of these too.

I really love mitts, but sometimes I just need more: arm warmers!! I’ve been adapting the Ärmelitas pattern from knitcats Design and for the latest version I decided to try tubular cast on. Oh, my. It can be a little confusing, but with some great help from the great tutorial on Purl Soho‘s site I was up and running fairly quickly. Look at all these tutorials that Purl Soho has posted! Knitting gold!! I bookmarked this right away, and maybe you will want to also.

Tubular bind off.
The tubular cast on was so nice and tidy I decided to look for tubular bind off. Back to YouTube I went and the one that worked for me was this tidy sewn version that I found at New Stitch A Day. I was befuddled at the start, but after 3 or 4 repeats of the steps I was up and running. 
Finished arm warmers.
Here are the finished arm warmers. See how nice the edges are? Tubular, totally tubular.

 

Warmers on my arm.
I wanted to warmers to be a little loose on my arm (comfy and warm) and long enough to stay put on my upper forearm. Check. Theses guys work.
MacKenzie and the arm warmer.
And these arm warmers are cat approved. There, what more would a knitter want?

I’m really happy with these arm warmers, but I’m thinking that I want to make the ribbing a little longer at the top of the warmer to help it stay in place at the top of my arm. I wrote my pattern adjustments and you can find them on my project notes here.

Sunday the forecast is for SNOW, and this time it will probably be more than a few flakes. I am knitting like crazy on my latest sweater and I wound more yarn for another set of arm warmers. I’m starting to like tubular cast on. Someday I may be able to do it without staring at a computer screen while I work.

Have a good weekend everyone and don’t forget to knit!

p.s. I’m knitting a Zweig sweater from these yarns. I absolutely can’t wait to show it off!!

Yarn
See, won’t this look great? I love how these colors go together.

Happy Thanksgiving: Arm Warmer Mitts Pattern

All week I’ve been getting ready for the holiday tomorrow. The turkey is in the fridge (and at exactly 2pm tomorrow afternoon he will slide into the oven!), the pies are on the counter, and the rest of the fixings are patiently resting in the fridge. All the cleaning is done except for the last minute vacuuming (hello… cats!), and even the stash has become organized. Through all of this I have also been churning out long mitts that are also arm warmers. It’s cold now. I need arm warmers!!

Hand in MItt.
Look at how cute these are! This yarn, Western Sky Knits Magnolia Sock, is 10% cashmere. Yum!!

I have Raynaud’s syndrome; when I get cold I lose circulation to my hands, feet and even my face. It can happen really quickly, too. Look at what happened to me while shopping in the produce section of the grocery store last night!

Raynauds
I was picking out fruit and salad from the refrigerated cases when I realized I was cold and my hands were numb. Yep. Raynaud’s attack. I finished my shopping with the sleeves from my hoodie pulled down over my hands.

During the winter I cope by wearing lots of simple layers that can be easily adjusted to adapt to changing conditions. Since I’m a knitter I have lots of socks, hand warmers, and shawls that I can layer on with reckless abandon. Seriously, I’m a walking knitwear advertisement in cold weather. I’m thinking about leg warmers for under my jeans and for my arms… arm warmers!!

The perfect product would be simple arm warmers that could be pulled down over my hands and fingers if I need it (so I put in a slit for my thumb), but could also be worn pulled up my arms to keep my hands free for household tasks like when I’m working with water or cooking (with cold things from the fridge). The warmers also needed to be long enough to pull up my arm, but should also be able to just bunch around my wrist. Snug enough to slide under sweaters, but loose enough to slip over gloves. Multi-purpose warmness. Take that, winter!

So here there are. I’ve made three pairs so far and I have another pair on the needles. I am just rocking these guys.

Arm Warmer Mitts
The yarn with color stripes is Chasing Rabbits Fern yarn. The fern is a little thinner than the Magnolia sock, so those warmers hug my arms better. The cashmere ones are just wonderful to wear while reading (and knitting) in bed. I love these mitts!! My Ravelry project notes are here.

As you can see, I have many things to be thankful for. My hands aren’t great (thanks, scleroderma), but they work for knitting, and because I knit I’m in better shape than most other patients with my condition. I have Raynaud’s, but because I knit I am able to create product that help me beat it into submission. I am knitting in a time of absolutely fabulous Indy dyed yarns that make me happy with every single stitch. The fabulous colors in the yarn mean that even a simple stockinette item looks great. I am thankful. Very, very thankful.

Hey, maybe you would like some mitts too! Here’s the pattern.

Arm Warmer Mitts

Needles: size 1 (2.25 mm) double point or cable needles. I used 2 16″ cable needles and split the stitches between them. Adjust my directions to fit your needle choice.

Yarn: Fingering or sock yarn. These mitts each took about 250 yards.

Right Hand:
1. CO 72 stitches using Old Norwegian CO or any other CO that you are fond of. It needs to be a little stretchy. Join in the round with 36 stitches on each of 2 16″ circular needles. Mark the start of the round.
2. Complete K1P1 ribbing for 12 rounds.
3. Knit rounds in stockinette until mitt length is 4.5 inches from the CO.
4. Decrease: K5, K2tog, PM, K1, SSK, K rest of the round. (70 stitches)
5. K rounds for another 1.5 inches.
6. Decrease: Knit until 2 stitches before mark, K2tog, SM, K1, SSK, K rest of the round. (68 stitches)
7. K rounds for another 1.5 inches.
8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 once, and then step 6 once more. (64 stitches)
9. Thumb opening: turn the work at the end of the round and purl back on the WS to the start of the round. (remove the mark when you come to it). Turn the work again and knit the RS to the start of the round. Continue turning the work and working rows in stockinette (purl on the WS, knit on the RS) until the thumb gap is 2.0 – 2.5 inches long; check fit on your hand and knit until you like the size of the gap. End with a RS row.
10. Return to knitting rounds. Knit one round, closing the gap for the thumb.
11. Complete K1P1 ribbing for 11 rounds.
12. CO in K1P1 pattern making sure it won’t be too tight around your fingers when worn.

Left Hand:
Complete steps 1-3 as for right hand.
4. Decrease: K 62 stitches (10 stitches left in the round) K2tog, PM, K1, SSK, K to end. (70 inches)
5. K rounds for another 1.5 inches.
6. Decrease: K until 2 stitches before the mark, K2tog, SM, K1, SSK, K to end of round.
7. K rounds for another 1.5 inches.
8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 once, and then step 6 once more. (64 stitches)
9-12. Same as for the right hand.

Weave in the ends. Add buttons or other embellishments to mark the tops of the mitts if you wish.

Mitts
The finished mitts are 12 inches long, 4.5 inches wide at the top and 3.75 inches wide at the lower (hand) edge.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  May your day be a good one, and stay warm!

The Colors of Fall

I bet that you were expecting pictures of the fall foliage and some frost on my pumpkins, weren’t you. Nope. All of those things have been happening (but I most admit, most of the great leafy color has fallen to ground at this point), but what I’m talking about is the fabulous knitting colors that appear like magic at this time of year. I love fall knitting (especially since it is powered by pumpkin spice lattes in my case!) and have been bit by excitement as I pile more yarn into my stash, more patterns into my Ravelry shopping cart (I have 169 patterns in there at the moment…) and power up the needles with cool weather knitting.

Snow on leaves.
Darn. I felt compelled to put in a picture of fall foliage anyways. See what I’m talking about? Look at those colors.!! I must have them in my yarn! 

Last week I finished some cute socks in fall colors during some cold weather with snow outside. I kept pulling them up on my arms to admire the colors and to check on the lace cuff, and I couldn’t help thinking that they would make some cute arm warmers. Hmmm…

Well they almost became arm warmers, but at the end of the day they did manage to become socks. I was, however, completely entranced with the idea of arm warmers that were also mitts with no thumbs. I wanted to be able to pull these things up onto my arms while working in the kitchen, but also able to have over my hands while knitting. Not too tight so I could wear them over long sleeved shirts or gloves. Not too bulky so that I would be able to wear the arm warmers/mitts under sweaters. I wanted warm!! My poor Raynaud’s inflicted hands demanded them.

Ta-daa!! Check these out!

Fingerless Mitts
Look at that.. there’s a pumpkin after all. These are the finished mitts that exactly meet my cold weather needs. Do you like my fall colored table runner? I’ve put out all the Thanksgiving decorations . Did I mention that I love this time of year?

Aren’t those colors great? This is the purple yarn that I showed off in an earlier post. I still have some bright, happy gold colored yarn to use as a contrast; I’m torn whether to use the yarns for a pair of Jelly Roll socks or perhaps brioche stitch cuffs with both colors. Brioche could be fun…

Finished MItt
Are these cute or what? Perfect for my needs. They allow me to use my hands easily while staying warm, but are easy to push up onto my arms while cooking or doing something that involves water (like bathing a certain yellow cat).

Did you glimpse the rosy rust colored knitting below the mitt? That is the sweater that I am working and working on. I just love the feel of the fabric and the pattern is one that I’ve done before so I know that I will love the finished product, but the simple, one-color stockinette demands that I take some breaks into some pattern or color excitement. I keep getting pulled into some socks and mitts, but each shot of cold weather finds me working like a fiend on the sweater again. I hope to have it done by Thanksgiving.

Sweater in progress.
Doesn’t this look nice? This is the Drijfhout sweater by Isabell Kraemer. As you can see, it is knit from the top down and will have a henley type button placket in the front. I plan to use little wooden buttons when I finish it.

Thursday I knitted faithfully on the sweater and got another couple of inches on to the body, but this morning I went hunting for another cute yarn for mitts. Why, look at this! I have some grey yarn with a rainbow strip from Chasing Rabbits that just totally wants to be mitts. It is nagging me somewhat desperately. What is a kindhearted, cold-armed knitted to do?

I cast on, of course!!

Knitting
This is another Chasing Rabbits yarn in the colorway “Colorful Yarns”, which was created for the LYS where I hang out and knit with my peeps. Pretty cool, huh.

I wrote up the pattern (such as it is…) and placed it in the notes of the Ravelry project page for the arm warmers/mitts. With this second pair I hope to clean up the opening for the thumbhole. Maybe there will be some ribbing around it? Hmmm…

Anyway, if you would like your own pair feel free to check out what I did. Add/subtract stitches to fit your own arm or needs.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Embracing the Sock Blank

Last month I went to the Estes Park Wool Market and scored some great additions for the stash; most intriguing were the sock blanks that I found in the Bonkers Handmade Originals booth. They were single stranded, so suitable for mismatched mitts and socks, or maybe for a little shawl. Hmm…  I bought two of them.

Sock Blank and Mitt
You know that I had to cast on right away. Look, look: a mitt! I started knitting right off the blank and thought that the kink in the yarn would contribute to the funkiness. OK, the fabric is wonky, but I like it. It’s rustic, right?

I have to be honest here. As soon as I had satisfied my burning curiosity about how the yarn would knit up I stuffed the project into a bag where it languished out of sight for a few weeks.

Then I went up to Shuttles, Spindles & Skeins in Boulder Colorado three weeks ago to get some more bobbins for my current weaving project and I saw these stacked in a pile of yumminess right by the front door:

Sock Blanks
Oh, my goodness. Look at those colors! These babies are from The Hummingbird Moon. You know that I was unable to resist casting on a sock right away since I am completely lacking in will power. Luckily I have several pairs of 2.25mm needles hanging out in my knitting bag.
Sock Blank
This sock blank was single stranded, so I knew that my pair of socks wouldn’t be an exact match, but after the first rush of knitting had worn off I took a better look at the blank to see if I could understand the dyeing pattern.  Hey, look at that! The blank had been folded lengthwise at the midpoint and the two halves are mirror images of each other. There must be a way to get two matching socks from this blank.
Cutting the sock blank.
I cut the blank at the midpoint, pulled out a long runner, cut it off and I had the two halves separated. Easy, peasy. I wound the bottom half into a ball using my ball winder.  Because of the way the blank was dyed the yarn that I wanted to start the new sock with (the bottom of the blank) was on the outside of the ball of wound yarn.
Ball of yarn and the blank.
Since I had already started one sock from the blank I had to cast on the second sock off the ball of yarn onto ANOTHER set of needles (hey, I’m an addict. I have lots and lots of needles…) and as soon as I had the second sock (from the ball of yarn) the same length as the first one I transferred it to the needles the first sock was on.
TAAT socks and patient cat.
Bam! I now had TAAT socks going on one set of needles. As always, MacKenzie was supervising my work.
Socks
From then on I worked off the ball and my half-blank. Look at how well the socks are matching up. I want to mention that if I had figured out the dye pattern sooner I could have wound both halves of the blank into balls; to make matching socks the trick would have been to knit from the outside of one ball and the inside of the other.

I did run into some issues when I got to the heel gussets; I had to use an extra needle (one for each sock heel) to handle all of the stitches during the gusset decreases. Once the stitch number was down to a reasonable number I was able to transfer stitches back to the original needles and finished up with no problems.

Finished Socks.
These are the first TAAT socks that I have ever done. I just love them! This simple vanilla sock pattern is Dave by Rachel Coopey. My Ravelry notes are here.

Flush with the success of the socks I pulled back out the mitts that I had started with the first sock blank that I got from Bonkers. This blank didn’t have a reversed dye pattern so I just went ahead and made mitts that are complementary but not identical.

Mitts
Here they are. These two will play well together but aren’t perfect matches. The fabric is a little funky so I put them into the sink this afternoon to soak for a while to see if the knitting will even out. They fit well when I try them on, so I’m sure all will be well after blocking. I haven’t woven in the ends yet as I thought that might be better done after blocking. My Ravelry notes are here.

I still have two blanks to play with, but as of today I have absolutely no projects on my needles at all; MacKenzie’s WIP basket is empty again. It’s kind of crushing. I have the yarn for three sweaters all lined up, but I’m torn about which one to start on. Should I start the artsy Stephen West Marled Magic sweater that will be very labor intensive, or should I just go for the easy knitting of another drijfhout in a single color? Then there is the crazy colored yarn that I bought for that I See Spring sweater by Joji Locatelli…

Time to start winding yarn. Good thing I am a knitting addict with a lot of needles on hand!

Update: Knits, Quilts, a New Book and Cold Cats

It has been just crazy hectic here the last two weeks. I have been driving to doctor appointments, cleaning the house, running errands, and staying pretty darn busy getting stuff ready for Christmas. This week I’ve been chipping away on several Christmas makes (with lots of cat help), and while the list of things I’m making seems endless, I finally got several things done all at once in the last couple of days. Finally, some progress! Check it out.

Shawl
I finished the Jujuy Shawl that I’m making for a cousin. I was told to use bright colors; this should definitely fit the bill. Ravelry notes here.
Mitts and Book
I also got these Akiko mitts done while I was reading a book. These babies are made with Anzula Cricket yarn and the cashmere blend makes them feel really yummy. This is the second pair of these mitts that I’ve made. I wasn’t happy with the thumbs on the first pair so this time I moved them over onto the palm of the mitt. Ravelry notes here. Looking at the tops of the mitts they look misshapen and thumbless, but if you turn them over…
Back of mitts
…there they are, tucked away on the back of the mitt. I moved the gusset over 6 stitches on these; I’m still fussing about these thumbs and may do a third pair with the thumb moved 4 stitches… This is a illness, but I prefer to call it a mitt study. 🙂
Table Runner.
I also got this table runner pieced and ready to quilt. The pattern, Waffle Time,  is really fast and easy to make. I bought the fabric last year and finally got going on the stitching this month. Did I mention that I have another table runner and a quilt to get done too?
Fabric close-up
See how cute these fabrics are?

I just want to say that all this crafting wasn’t easy at all since the weather turned dangerously cold for kitties this week and I couldn’t let them go out for more than a couple of minutes at a time. MacKenzie has been especially crabby about the turn of weather events. This morning when I got up it was -10 degrees F and the ground was covered in snow! Yikes! No way could the cats go out in that!

Annoyed cat
MacKenzie: Do I look annoyed? Yes! I would like to speak with whoever is in charge of the weather. This is completely unacceptable.
cat on shawl
MacKenzie: If I can’t go outside I should be able to help with the knitting, right? Yarn chomping time!! I mean, what do you expect a bored cat to do?
Cat
Yellow Boy: Yarn chomping is so yesterday. I prefer to sit on the pattern and stare at the Mother of Cats until she gets me some chicken to eat. If I can’t chase bugs I should have chicken. Chicken, chicken, chicken!! Did I mention that I can stare for a LONG time?

When they aren’t yarn chomping and staring at me (sitting on the pattern, of course) the cats have insisted on sleeping on top of me. These are big cats! The little one is over 15 pounds, and MacKenzie is a whopping 18 pounds of dead cat weight.

Book
Luckily this new book was published this week so I can read while serving as a cat bed. Oh, my goodness. This is the latest book in my most favorite series ever, The Expanse. I watched the first season of the television show made from the books last week to warm up for the release date, and as soon as the book was available in the early hours of Tuesday morning I downloaded it to my NOOK. 

I really do love these books. I even blogged about them. I like the characters, the political/social situations created as people move onto other planets and into space, the science is good, the pacing of the plots is excellent, and did I mention that it is SPACE OPERA?!! Hello, Science Geek! Here’s the previous posts about these books:

This new book is the 6th in the series. I didn’t feel compelled to blog about the 5th book, but this latest book has really hooked me back into the story. All my favorite characters are back, the story is moving right along, and there has got to be a space battle coming soon.

Thank heavens it is cold out. What a wonderful excuse to stay inside to craft and read. I may get all of my Christmas makes done on time this year. The cats will get more attention. I will get my book finished lickety-split.

Cat
…and I will get more chicken!! 

Thanks Polar Express.

Have a good weekend everyone.

Reporting the Launch of some WIPs

Last week after getting some big projects out of the way I pulled out more craft stuff and got going on the Christmas knitting and messed with some other crafts. Now I’m rolling in the WIPs, but hey, who wants to be stuck in just one project? Boring!! Better to have several going at the same time with different features

Mitt
Detail work: these mitts are tedious with the charted lace pattern, beads and twisted ribs. Great for focused knitting during a football game. (Akiko Mitt, Ravelry page here.)
Jujuy Shawl in Progress
This shawl is all garter and a simple mesh knit. Ahh! My Netflix binge watching buddy! (Jujuy Shawl, Ravelry page here.)
Warped loom
and for the sunny mornings, what could be better than a cup of latte and time at the loom. I warped up my little table top 8 shaft loom to play around with some different ideas.
Weaving
Here’s my first effort with some old Christmas yarn for the weft…
Weaving
and this is what the same pattern looks like in a balanced weave with a tencel yarn of the same weight as the warp.

I’m thinking of making a scarf. There are lots of different treadle patterns possible with this warp, so I’m digging in the yarn stash to see what else I can play with. I just found some lace weight grey alpaca, and there is this alpaca/silk yarn too… Gosh, this is fun. 🙂 I might even figure out how to record this on Ravelry. Other people have weaving projects recorded. Must push the boundaries and learn something new!

Snow on flowers
The only other news around here is that it finally has snowed.
Cats
Overall the cats are disgusted with the change in weather, but amazingly have become buddies again in the cool air. Ah, the circle of life. Gone are the bug hunting days of summer, and here again are the feline pile-ups of winter. 🙂

Happy Christmas crafting everyone.