The Saturday Update: Week 9

The local news station posted on Facebook this morning that there are only 300 days until Christmas. Why do they do this? Already, I am feeling the pressure and thinking about what I need to craft/knit/weave for this year’s Christmas.  I did take out the spinning wheel this week and got organized to do some quilting. So much pressure if you are a fiber artist/crazy person…

Knitting

I had a busy knitting week. It was so busy, in fact, that I already did a little posting about what I was up to as I worked out the swatches to knit another cat to match my son’s kitten Jonesy and ended up dyeing some mohair yarn in a crockpot. If you missed it, here is that post.

Last night I took the swatches up to my son’s place to match them to the real thing: Jonesy.

They were a big hit; Jonesy thinks they are a new kick toy. They are also a good match, especially the color that I dyed to create his stripes.

I got back to work on my Pebble Tunic later on in the week. It doesn’t look like I made a lot of progress, but I have connected the front and back and am knitting down the body of the sweater making some increases as I go. It is all mindless knitting until I hit the pockets in another 10 inches of knitting or so.

This yarn is just wonderful to work with. My project notes on Ravelry are here.
I also went back to simple knitting because… well, this is embarrassing… I snipped into my thumb with my scissors. My scleroderma hands sometimes misbehave, but this is just ridiculous!! Good thing I had a knitted finger protector on hand to hold the bandage in place and add protection.
I’m also finishing up the second snowshoe sock being created at DK weight by holding a wild multicolored yarn from Western Sky Knits with a single ply inky colored MadTosh yarn. The project notes are here.

This is a bittersweet project to finish up. It is the last one that my sweet boy yarn chomped/supervised earlier this week. I’m so glad now that I let him eat all the cookies that he wanted, tolerated all his knitting help, held and babied him when I wanted to do other things, and switched him back to his favorite food for those last few weeks.

MacKenzie was always a lot of help. If you missed it, my boy left me this week and I blogged about it here.
Garden

The best part of orchid ownership has arrived: the orchids left the craft room with its grow lights and moved into the living room to strut their stuff to the general public. Okay, it is just me, but it makes me so happy to have them out on display.

The miniature orchid with its darker magenta blooms joined the rose gold orchid on the china cabinet. Do you like that funky unglazed orchid pot? I get them at my local nursery and the orchids really seem to like them.
The Monster orchid is now on my coffee table where its lovely orange/pink bloom (there are more on the way) displays well with the plum furniture and the gold walls. Happy orchid, happy me!
Books

Well, I have settled into the most amazing book ever this week. I can’t believe how much I love this book. I bought it because Melinda of Knit Potion recommended it on her blog. Oh, my goodness!! I am so glad that she pointed this incredible book out to me.

<Disclaimer: I am a life long science geek and biologist. I didn’t always love plants, but now I drive people walking along with me crazy as I stop to take a good look at vegetation. I was thrilled when a slime mold emerged in the pot of one of my jade plants this summer. I’ve gone on workshops and field trips to forests, burn zones, and learned about the forest management strategies employed to maintain Denver’s watersheds. I think that it is absolutely reasonable to marvel over the mechanics of water movement through plants and the complexity of chloroplasts…>

I’m about a third of the way through the book, and so far it is a collection of stories about the interactions and meaningful relationships of different individuals with… trees! Sounds kind of strange and boring, but no, it is not! It is magical. I am hoping that the people catch up with each other to save the forest soon…

Here it is. I did take a break from the book and watched the movie Tolkien. Would you believe it – trees feature in this movie and Tolkien tells his kids to go talk to the trees. That’s it. Never underestimate the power of communing with trees…

Before you think that this is crazy, let me share with you a little tree story from my family. Starting her life over after tumultuous times and a painful divorce, my mother bought a trailer home and began to garden again. She grew amazing roses and boatloads of blackberries. She planted a tree. A Podocarpus Macrophilia tree, to be exact. She loved the tree, fed it, babied it, and eventually hung a bird feeder in its branches. She treasured this tree and it just thrived under her care. Mowing the lawn under the tree one day she began to realize that there was something wrong: abdominal and back pain. It was cancer. Years later, facing down her coming death she selected her burial plot and made all of her final decisions in a manner that serves as a pathway to me and all others who knew her. She chose a location with a beautiful view of the hills and canyons of San Diego, under a Podocarpus Macrophilia tree. The last time I saw her grave there were wind chimes and a small bird feeder hanging from the tree.

Never discount the importance of a tree.

Have a great week, everyone!! Read a little, knit a little, and garden like your heart can’t live without it.

Knitting Jonesy: Yarns and Swatching

This is Jonesy.

Jonesy is my son’s kitten; in this photo he is 5 months old.

Once again I am organizing the yarns to knit up a cat using the pattern by Claire Garland. Jonesy is interesting with his white chin, cream paws and tail tip, and of course, all of those stripes. Okay, I may have something of a cat knitting problem, but I’m not defensive or anything. I’m kind of compelled by the creative and technical challenge of making the mixtures of yarns create a believable, if not exact, copy of the cat. Also, I’m having fun!

So I collected these yarns with the conviction that they were a good start to make knitted Jonesy.

I planned to use the fingering yarn for the base throughout the cat and the stripes and different shades would be created by the mohair blends. When I knit MacKnitzie I used black mohair to create the stripes; when the cat was done the black was greatly toned down by the mohair and it was kind of grey. I figured that the same effect would tone down that dark cedar colored mohair at the top of the picture when I knit it in for stripes.

I learned my lesson a couple of cats ago. Always knit swatches with different combinations of yarn to use in planning the cat.

I kind of feel like that dark cedar is a little too dark. Wow. Those stripes really will stand out and are much darker then they appear in the photo. I kind of want something more like dark caramel to use. I looked everywhere online and in local stores hunting for the shade I had in my mind.

Nope. Nope, nope, nope. I had this color in my mind and nothing else was going to satisfy me. All right then; I have acid dyes and I have skills. I decided to try to create the color in my dye crockpot!!

I played around with some dyes on white wool I had lurking in the garage, and after those results I settled on this combination of caramel with some shots of orange.

I re-skeined a ball of mohair/silk yarn using my trusty niddy-noddy and then added it to a warmed crockpot with a glug white vinegar. I sprinkled the dry dye powder onto the top of the yarn, put the lid back onto the crockpot, and then walked away for an hour. (By the way, this crockpot is used only for dyeing! I keep everything that I use for dyeing in isolation in the garage so it can’t get mixed in with cooking utensils and pots.)

Ta-daa!! The dye exhausted faster then I expected; after an hour on high heat it was over.

The yarn after the first dye operation was really close to what I wanted, but when I got it out of the pot I found that there were several chunks of white yarn underneath. Nope! Time to over-dye. I dissolved about 1/8 teaspoon of caramel dye to the water in the pot, added another glug of vinegar and put the yarn back in. After another hour of high heat in the crockpot the dye had struck and I was done.

This is what I ended up with.

I was happy with this yarn… doesn’t it look like it will produce stripes more like Jonesy? More swatching!!

I now have more options to use in the cat. The very top combination really looks like Jonesy’s stripes! I don’t want to cast on until I see Jonesy again as he is changing quickly while he grows (a dark stripe just appeared down his tail!), but I really feel like I have the yarns I need to knit him up.
Planning the face is going to be interesting… how will I get in those freckles?! I used 5 different combinations of yarns on MacKnitzie’s face and chin, which really helped create the illusion of a real cat.

Whew. Time to put the Jonesy project aside and to go back to my sweater knitting. I also have a second sock to cast on and get going. Did I mention that it is snowing outside again? Oh yeah, something else happened today…

The monster orchid has opened a bloom!!

The Saturday Update: Week 8

Knitting

Have I mentioned that it has been snowing a lot here in Colorado? I have several projects on the needles at the moment, but my feet were cold Sunday night and I needed more bed socks of the cashmere persuasion right away! I hit the stash, found a nice cashmere blend yarn from Western Sky Knits, and hunted around for the pattern I used for a previous pair. Oh, yeah. The pattern is in a book that is full of wonderful socks: Socktopus by Alice Yu, and the pattern is Om Shanti Bed Socks. Once I had the pattern, book and needles located I cast on and got to business; two days later I had my socks!

How cute are these? The socks are knit toe up with an unusual treatment that allows the perfect shaping in garter stitch that is repeated in the heel. I like the lace even though it messed with my head while I was doing it, and I added the garter to the top of the sock to make things look even. My project notes are here.

Do you like the slight haziness of the picture? That’s because I had a big, fat fingerprint across the lens of the camera on my phone. Sigh. Anyway, you can almost imagine how comfy they are on my feet just looking at them, right? The lace makes the sock hug my foot and they are just perfect to keep them warm while I try to fall asleep. These socks are knit on a larger gauge then you would usually use for a sock, so they aren’t tough, but they are comfy!! I couldn’t help but drool over all of the nice patterns in the Socktopus book and I’m thinking that I will be making some more socks from the book before it goes back on the shelf.

MacKenzie really likes the mohair and sock yarn mix that is making the fabric of the sweater.

MacKenzie and I continued to work on the Pebble Tunic and made some good progress on that too this week. The construction is top down in an interesting fashion; the back is completed to the bottom of the armhole, then the front is knit to match. I’m now on the front knitting down to the point where the two sides will be attached to knit in the round. MacKenzie is not impressed… he just wants the sweater to be a blankie for him while he naps.

Garden

This must be starting to become a little old for all of you… I have some orchids blooming. I’m really kind of childish about them; every morning I rush to the craft room to see if I have a new bloom. Anyway, the miniature orchid opened its first bloom this week and the monster orchid has buds forming that are just… well… they are monstrous! I can’t wait for one of them to open… any day now!

Here are the four bloomers. 
Here is the new bloomer. It is my smallest plant and the magenta bloom is a perfect addition to the garden. I’m not sure, but there appear to be two more stems emerging from the main stem holding the buds below this flower. Yay! Blooms all spring!!

As soon as the monster orchid blooms I will post the picture!

Books

I finished The Water Dancer last night and I’m still thinking about the book. Sometimes I’m not sure I liked it all that much, but at other moments I am sure that it may be one of the most impactful books I’ve read in a while. It is a book about slavery, freedom, the eternal harm of broken families, and the power of purpose and mission. There is cruelty and loss. There is magic. There is the peace of freedom and reunions. There is an enduring question: what is a good life? When I got to the end I thought: this is the end?! Later on I decided that the ending was actually pretty darn good. This book will stay with me for quite some time.

This is Black History Month here in the US, which contributed to my choice to read this book right now.

The plantation in this book is set in Virginia on the eastern coast of the United States. The plantation in this book is dying as the soil is exhausted and the crops are no longer productive enough to maintain operations; owners are going west to the state of Tennessee, and slaves are sold or relocated as operations ship to the new state. Tennessee. My dad’s family was from Tennessee, and I know that my dad was born and raised on a farm. There was that story about the runt piglet that he made a house pet out of, and the time the cow came down with rabies… Out of idle curiosity I googled my maiden name and the word “plantation” to see if I would get a hit.

Suddenly Black History Month took on a whole new meaning for me. There was a return on the search that told me that there was, indeed, a plantation that carried my maiden last name. It is located in North Carolina just below the border with Virginia, the location of this book. There are testimonials from slaves with my last name in the National Archives. There is a town that has my last name, and it is located in an area of North Carolina with a lot of Dutch influence, which matches my maiden last name’s history. I know that my father’s family relocated to Tennessee from an eastern seaboard state. The history of America that is in this book is part of my history, too.

Suddenly the book had a lot more meaning for me. I am crushed. I am full of sorrow. I am only responsible for the actions of my own life, but I am burdened now by the thought that the pain, struggle, need for autonomy, and recognition of personhood that these slaves lived is also part of my history. I was raised in another part of the United States, California, and live and worked in integrated communities, but my roots on my father’s side go back to this.

I mentioned The Water Dancer last month to another member of my book club as one we might want to read. “Oh,” she said dismissively, looking at the book, “I think we should only read books by authors whose names we can pronounce.” Seriously? Ta-Nehisi Coates is not a big deal. Just sound it out!! You should have a last name like mine, or a chronic disease that no one can pronounce (scleroderma). Whatever. I took her comment to be racist or xenophobic.

I let it go. I wish now I had not. I’m glad I read the book, I’m not happy that I did that google search, but now I’m on the hunt for the story of my family in America. Ancestry.com, here I come.

MacKenzie and the Greatly Loved Sweater

I have knitted quite a few Caitlin Hunter sweaters; she is one of my favorite designers for sure. One of her sweaters, Nordiska, was one that seemed to be a big hit with my cat, MacKenzie. The whole time I was knitting it I battled with him to STAY OFF THE SWEATER!!! It was just nuts! When I finished I took the final picture of it hanging from a tree so I could get the shot without a cat flopped on the sweater. My project notes on Ravelry are here.

Sometimes I had to give up and just let him have the sweater.

Somehow it seems to be fated that, out of all of my handknitted sweaters, I was wearing this one the night I rushed MacKenzie to the vet’s office. In the middle of the struggle to get him medicated there was a little injury…

Do you see that snag? One of MacKenzie’s back claws pulled out a one-ply 16 inch long snag!
Here’s the close-up.

That pulled row is so tight there was no way to hide it and it really affected the way the sweater fit. Ugh. I like this sweater, it is really comfy to wear (that burgandy yarn on the sleeves is a cashmere blend), so today I pulled myself together and attempted to repair it. Lucky for me, I obsessively save all of my left over yarn, and I had exactly what I needed to do the repair.

I started by putting in a life line above the damaged row of knitting. Of course MacKenzie was all over me trying to snag the yarn or maybe, if he could get away with it, just move in for a nap on the sweater.
Eventually I got life lines above and below the damaged row of knitting.
Once I had life lines above and below the damaged row of knitting I carefully removed it. I left 2 inch tails of the yarn from that row at each end so I could secure the ends of the replacement row once I got it in.
After that it was easy to return the stitches to the needles (and thanks to Ravelry I knew what size needle I had used!) while fending off more feline assistance…
and I then used Kitchener stitch to make the repair. Whew! This was a little rocky at the start, but I got a feel for it as I went.
I used a steam iron to block the stitches of the repair to blend in with the original knitting and ta-daa! I have a  functional sweater again. 

The repair isn’t perfect as I can sort of see my Kitchener work, but the casual observer would never see it or suspect what had happened. My beloved sweater is back in service, and from now on I will be taking it off before I subject MacKenzie to any more vet related abuse.

Poor guy! This wasn’t a good night for MacKenzie or my sweater!

Tonight it is snowing again and I am getting ready to settle in to knit on my latest sweater project. MacKenzie, exhausted from trying to put the moves on my sweater during the repair, is now taking nap. A perfect evening to get some serious progress done on the current sweater project.

Be good to your cats and knitting, people!

MacKenzie Speaks: MacKnitzie takes a road trip.

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Remember these yarns that were used to knit my look-alike friend?

Well, I’ve been hanging out with the knitted friend all week while it has been snowing outside. He is almost as good as a blankie!! The Mother of Cats had some trouble naming my knitted buddy… she got lots of suggestions from other bloggers (whatever that is… do they have cookies?) like Matheson, and Ross, and even Fuzzy, but when one of her blogging buddies suggested “MacKnitzie” that was the name!!

Anyway, the Mother of Cats took MacKnitzie with her when she went on a road trip to her son’s place this weekend. She left me all alone!! Why does the Mother of Cats do these things, and why did she have to take MacKnitzie with her? You should see all of the things that MacKnitzie did while I was home all alone without anyone to groom my fur or give me cookies for my afternoon snack. The Mother of Cats needs to have better priorities!!

MacKnitzie got to sleep on a strange cat pillar…
And he played with the new kitten that belongs to the Mother of Cats’ son.
Okay, I heard from MacKnitzie that the kitten beat him up, bunny kicked him, and chewed on his paw. It was just awful! How could the Mother of Cats let this happen to him. When it was over he rested with the kitten’s toy rat until he recovered.
Then he took a nap with the grown up cat that lives there.

Whew. It was really hard to get through the two days without MacKnitzie!! I can’t believe that the Mother of Cats separated us like that! What was she thinking about? Thank goodness she brought him home safe again for me to take naps with last night.

Because MacKnitzie is the best little napping buddy a cat could have!

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • I’m collecting all of the yarns to make two more cats. The first will be the orange kitten, and then I have to figure out how to knit a tuxedo Maine coon cat… lots and lots of fluffy fur going on!!
See what I mean?
  • I took all of the collected yarns up to my son’s place this weekend along with the knitted cat so he could give me feedback on the yarns that I was thinking of using.
  • I got such great ideas for names for the knitted cat! My sister called him Fuzzy, which he certainly is. Highlandhuffalump suggested the clan name Matheson, which I really liked, and then Catherine mentioned Ross for a name, which was also pretty darn appealing. When mildlygranola suggested “MacKnitzie” it was over: the knitted cat absolutely decided that it wanted to be named MacKnitzie!! Thank you all for the help.
  • The knitted cat is the pattern Cat by Claire Garland. MacKnitzie’s project page is here.

The Saturday Update: Week 7

We have had so many snowstorms this month I have lost count. We seem to get one every few days…maybe the one coming next Monday will be storm number 6? Anyway, there has been lots of shoveling and knitting going on this week.

Knitting

With all of the snow I have really been focusing on making more of the thick snowshoe socks that keep my feet warm and cushioned when I go outside. MacKenzie was really involved in the production of these socks this week so he will be blogging soon about them, but let me say that we are just cranking them out. I also worked on some mitts to give away to other members of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Scleroderma Foundation. These mitts aren’t all that much as I’m making them out of leftover sock yarn that has been piling up in the stash, but I hope that they will be as helpful to other people as they are to me. Here’s the two pairs that I finished this week.

These mitts are made using the pattern that I developed that you can find here in an earlier post: Sweet & Simple Vanilla Mitts. Feel free to make yourself a pair if you’d like. 🙂

Since I was occupied with socks and mitts I didn’t get as much done on the Pebble Tunic sweater by Joji Locatelli as I thought I would, but I am making some progress.

I’m coming down the back of the sweater. Later on I start the front and then the parts are connected and knit top down in one piece. The pattern is here, and my project notes, such as they are, can be found here.
Garden

I bought myself some cute, cute, cute miniature ornamental kale plants this week. Look at these!!

Seriously, what could be more cute than this?

I bought two more to put into my little greenhouse that I keep on the kitchen window shelf. These just make me happy, and they were super, duper cheap, too, at $4 a plant. Total score for the kitchen garden!!

See what I mean?

I thought that I could get all three plants into the greenhouse, but I also bought the little clay pots and they made the fit for three plants too tight. I like the clay pots, so these two will have to hang out in the greenhouse by themselves.

My rose gold orchid produced the second bloom, and it looks like several others are ready to pop open.
The purple orchid is a little underwhelming, but I’m sure it is doing the best that it can.

The monster orchid is still looking good and the buds are a little bigger, but I won’t see the bloom for another week or two I think. The buds aren’t producing any color, so there is a chance that these will be very light colored flowers. It’s an orchid adventure!

Books

I’m still slowly reading The Water Dancer. It’s good, and it is making me think a lot, but the performer’s voice is rather soothing and I do go to sleep within a half hour . Hey, that is a good thing, too, right?

There is another snowstorm coming next week so I should make more progress on the audiobook and my sweater.

Have a great week, everyone!!

Blasting Through the Doldrums

It is snowing outside tonight. Again. After unbelievable warm days in the 60’s and 70’s the week before last Colorado plunged into frigid temperatures and snow overnight last Sunday. Then the temperatures went subzero and it snowed again. And again. We have already passed the average snow totals for the month, my snow shovel is getting worn out and MacKenzie is downright disgusted.

But indoors my favorite yellow-gold rose bush is blooming again. Take that snowy days!!

During all of this I had a very busy week. I knitted, read, rushed to appointments, and pretty much wore myself out. I even cooked some great meals that were stashed to eat for the upcoming week! By Saturday night I had finished knitting the MacKenzie cat. At the same time I finished the series that I was binge watching on Netflix (Anne with an “E”), and polished off my audiobook, The Giver of Stars. Flush with success I blogged about my week Saturday evening.

And woke up yesterday totally at a loss. What am I supposed to do with myself now? I was in the doldrums for sure… between knitting projects, between books, between Netflix shows, between snowstorms… really struggling to get myself restarted. Ugh. I spent way too much time wandering around on the internet looking at books and yarn.

I also spent some time pruning roses and cleaning up the plants in the sewing room. The rose gold orchid continues to flourish and another bloom should open in the next few days.

By the evening , after grocery shopping and shoveling MORE snow, I had pulled out some yarn, made some decisions, bought a new pattern, and slowly settled into a new audiobook. Today I wound yarn, kitted up my new projects, and began to cast on. I even found a new show to bingewatch (Counterpart on Amazon Prime)

I decided to make another V-Neck Boxy sweater, but I have an idea to make some type of Fair Isle knitted pattern on the lower sleeves. Don’t you like this yarn?

Both of the yarns were specials at my LYS. The Baah Yarn La Jolla is the January 2020 yarn, and the plum is the February 2020 yarn from Chasing Rabbits. I bought them both the minute I saw them because… well… I deserve them!!!

If I’m going to start a new sweater, why not 2? Remember this yarn that I agonized over last month? I was going to make a Daydreamer out of it, but my hands are not happy at the moment and that sweater has a lot of stitch manipulation going on, so I decided to shift to something simpler. Lucky for me Joji Locatelli just published the very sweater I need right now, the Pebble Tunic.

I had already made a knitted stockinette swatch with the two yarns held together, so I pulled that out, measured the gauge, and then made another with a larger needle. Bam! I am almost exactly at gauge, the fabric will be light, fluffy and warm, and the sweater is perfect for my struggling hands to work on right now. I bought the pattern last night and cast on. Take that winter weather!!

Oh, yes. Back to the binge watch show. Counterpart is on Amazon Prime and I went right down that rabbit hole as soon as I started watching it. Perfect show to watch while knitting a simple stockinette tunic. I’m already through all of the shoulder shaping and into mindless stockinette for the next 8″. Good show, mindless knitting: perfect match.

But wait, there is more! I need to make another cat!!

This is my son’s 5 month old kitten named Jonesy. What a cutey, right? How can I not knit this cat?
Behold! The yarn to knit Jonesy. I wound up yarn and kitted this project today too. In the days to come I’ll start producing some swatches.

Late last night I settled on an audiobook to listen to while falling asleep. Here it is, and so far it is a good one. Perfect for end of the day sock knitting.

I’m not to far into this book, but it is holding my attention for sure.

So it took a day for the reset and to cast on again, but I am now through the doldrums and energized with projects and goals. What a relief. I’m also considering some quilting and maybe spinning some yarn.

Bye, doldrums.

I’m off to shovel some more snow.