MacKenzie Speaks: Busy Days

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Cat helping hold yarn.
Do you see how much help I am to the Mother of Cats? 

The weather has turned nice and the Mother of Cats and I have been busy working in the yard, knitting lots of projects, and getting yummy things cooked in the kitchen. I love hanging out in the kitchen with the Mother of Cats since she gives me extra attention, cookies, and even plates of tuna. Sometimes the Mother of Cat can be fun. Sometimes.

I have been so busy that I hardly know what to do with myself. Now that I am able to get back into the yard there is a lot for me to do. I need to inspect every corner of the yard, nap in all of my favorite places, make sure that all the other cats in the neighborhood understand that I am back (ahem… I do my business in all the right places…), and then there are the plants that I like to chomp. And bugs! The moths are back and every night I have another epic moth hunt that goes on for hours. The Mother of Cats hates the moths…

Cat munching on catmint in the garden.
The very best thing about summer is that I can get back to my catmint!! I can take naps under this plant when I’m not snacking on it. Next time I chat with all of you about the yard I’ll send some pictures of the flowers. The Mother of Cats likes the flowers, but for me, it is ALL ABOUT THE CHOMPS!!

Unfortunately, the Mother of Cats doesn’t let me stay outside as much as I would like. Always, we have to go back in before I want to. The Mother of Cats just doesn’t place my needs first like she should. She can be so MEAN to me! Okay, there are some thunderstorms in the afternoons… If she loved me she would make them go away so I could stay outside!! Why can’t the Mother of Cats understand how important the outside is?

Cat sleeping with ball of yarn.
But she does let me take care of her yarns while she is knitting in the afternoons.
Cat asleep with knitting.
This knitting is also a blanket for me while the Mother of Cats is taking a break. I kind of like this shawl. It is going to be really big when it is done. My new Blankie!!

The Mother of Cats spent a few days working on the new shawl (a What the Fade?! shawl by Andrea Mowry) and then became completely distracted and started working on some arm warmers to match the socks that she made not that long ago. I can be reasonable… I helped her knit those, too. After only two days of knitting in bed listening to an audiobook she was able to get one of the arm warmers done solely due to my devoted attention. Look at how nice it looks!!

Arm warmers in progress.
I don’t know when she will wear these as it is pretty warm these days, but you never know. For some reason she was just on fire to get these all knitted up. Here are the socks that they will match.

As you can see, I am just terrifically busy. Taking care of the Mother of Cats and the yard is kind of a full time job. Then there is my mouse. Do you remember how badly I needed a mouse? The Mother of Cats bought me a mouse (she says it is a hamster… whatever!) a few months ago and last week she moved her downstairs to be with us in the evenings while we knit.

Cat snoozing with hamster.
I love my mouse! I spend a lot of my time right by the mouse cage every evening when she wakes up for the night. She makes me happy, and the best thing ever is that she RUNS IN A WHEEL! She even has her own little cookies to eat. Miss Pitty-Pat is my best friend these days.

I can’t believe how much I have to do every day.

I am such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • My neighbors (I have the best neighbors in the world!) have been collaborating with me to spruce up our yards. Mulch has been spread on the side yard, a new flower bed started, and I’m even moving bricks to extend the patio/deck area in the back (we all had a brick swap!). Wait until MacKenzie sees the new patio umbrella I bought this weekend!
  • The downside of all this yard work is that sunshine is not kind to people with autoimmune diseases. After a week of bravely tackling yard projects in the late afternoons the flare arrived anyway and I had to hole up in bed for a few days being kind to myself. Not wanting to manipulate multiple balls of yarn with MacKenzie sleeping on my legs I switched over to the small arm warmers. The project notes for them are here. They are based on the No. 5 Union Street socks that I made earlier this spring.
  • I have several other projects going right now, but the major one is the What the Fade?! shawl that I am working on in shades of rusts. My project notes are here.
Yarns for shawl.
Check out the yarns! And no, this new shawl is NOT a blankie for MacKenzie!
  • I’m still deep in my flare, but I am knitting and listening to audiobooks like crazy and eating comfort food ; I am still in charge here, you bad boy autoimmune things!! MacKenzie isn’t happy about not being in the yard all day, but his issue is really with scleroderma, not me. Somehow he isn’t grasping the finer details of the situation… What can I expect? He is a cat. I bossy, self-centered cat who drips entitlement like none other. Seriously, I couldn’t function in a flare without this furry monster at my side. 🙂
  • It looks like we are going to have an epic miller moth season; every time I open the door to the garage another moth flies in. Great. MacKenzie is specializing in 1am moth hunts these days…

Casting On Again

Last week was great; I finished up a big knitting project, read a good book, baked cookies, and began planting flowers and doing yard work again. Yay! The leaves are bursting out on my trees, the roses are looking good, and I think that we have finally had our last freeze warning. Spring is finally here! Good weather has arrived for a few days, I have energy, and I made lots of progress over some really excellent days.

And yet, there was a downside to getting things done… I suddenly found myself rattling around the house at loose ends. I aimlessly flipped between books on my tablet, unable to find one that would hold my interest. I listlessly looked through knitting patterns, unable to commit. Where is my next project, I asked myself. I dove into the yarn stash hunting for inspiration.

Enough of that, said the stash! Here are some nice yarns, truly excellent colors, and ideas galore. It really does pay off to have a well-fed stash at times like this. Look at what I am casting on for the next round of projects…

I bought these cute shoes over the winter, and they so deserve socks to match their cuteness! What are the shoes, you ask? Those are Haflinger clogs, and my feet love them. 
Here they are! These socks are part of the Stonington Project by Ruth Garbo, and this particular pattern is No. 5 Union Street. How stinking cute can a pair of socks be? My project notes are here.
Yarn for Nordiska sweater.
I had put together the yarns for Nordiska last month but kind of forgot about them while knitting the VNeck Boxy. Yippee! I sang to myself as I pulled the kitted up yarns and pattern out of the stash. I wound the yarns…
cast on and began knitting away Monday. I love the way the “construct” colorway is working up, and the cables that show off the raglan shaping are looking great. Next month is the Estes Park Wool Market; if I knit like crazy I might be able to show off the finished Nordiska then. My project notes are here.
I kept collecting these coral and rust colored yarns through the fall and winter. Unsure of what to do with them, I kept feeding the yarn stash knowing that eventually the right project would come along. Behold! These yarns have told me that they want to be a What the Fade!? shawl. Who am I to argue with them?

So, there we are. I have projects going again and I am excited with the drive to complete more knitted yumminess.

Still hunting for the book, but it is sure to come. I have two audiobook credits to burn, so as soon as I settle on some titles I will be in business.

After all, I need something to listen to while knitting!

The Yarn Destash Project: End of April Report

What a month it has been. I started April feeling pretty cocky and confident that I was smashing the yarn destash resolution; I had used up 21 skeins of yarn in just three months. I was a knitting machine and I was going to polish off this destash project lickity-split before the end of summer. Look at me! All hail the Midnight Knitter and her flashing knitting needles.

Then there was a slip: the Interweave Yarn Fest. I lost control. I bought yarn. I bought 11 skeins of yarn…

So the yarn total on my little Excel spreadsheet was reset down to 10 skeins. Boohoo! 10 skeins. Whatever. I am a knitting machine. I will catch up. I have this!

Behold my progress this month:

The minute I saw the Geology Socks pattern I wanted to make them. As in… I MUST HAVE THESE SOCKS IMMEDIATELY!! I cast on a total of three times to make the socks, ripping out twice to change the pattern and/or yarn until I had exactly what I wanted. I kept pulling the socks onto my arm so I could admire the pattern. What a shame to hide this great pattern under my pants… behold the Geology Mitts! My project notes are here. Total yarn used: 1/2 skein.
I spent a lot of time cranking out this Sea Swell Shawl, but it was time well spent as this shawl with its perfect drape will be a huge workhorse for me. My project notes are here. Total skeins used: 2 skeins (the lightest grey doesn’t count towards the destash as I bought it this year for this project.)
I’ve been wanting to make a stack of new dish cloths to use in the kitchen with my handwoven dish towels. This month I produced a small stack of Almost Lost Washcloths.  Total skeins used: 2 skeins.

 

I’m also continuing to make progress on my V-Neck Boxy. I’m working my way down the body and have another 6 inches to go before I bind off. This sweater was a little slow to start because of the shoulder and neck shaping, but now that I’m knitting stockinette in the round I am cruising along. Total skeins used so far: 2 skeins.

So there it is: after a month of knitting I have boosted the destash number to 16.5 skeins. I have two projects currently on my needles (the V-Neck Boxy and a pair of simple socks), so it is time to reorganize and get new projects lined up. Oh boy! Time to wind the yarn for my Nordiska sweater! I’m thinking about a new Sea Swell shawl. I want to make some grey and red socks to match my new shoes… I pulled an alpaca fleece from the garage into the house with the thought of spinning a nice rosy brown alpaca yarn to knit with some mohair I bought at Interweave Yarn Fest. I’m energized and gearing up for May: let the knitting begin!

One more little item before I sign off… today is May Day. When I was a child I would hand flowers on the doorknobs of my friends and neighbors. Today I offer up the current state of my blooming orchid.

Happy May Day everyone!

FO Friday: Sea Swell Shawl

It has been a pretty calm week with warm weather and cloudy skies.

The ground cover in my front yarn just burst into bloom in a big way. I always feel like spring is finally here when this phlox begins blooming!

I’m still nursing a sore ankle (the adventure continues… this bad-boy ankle will be it’s own post someday…) so I was able to get a lot of knitting done.

Let be honest here. I got the knitting done because the knitting supervisor and yarn chomper took lots of naps!

I finished the Sea Swell Shawl (by Stephen West) Monday night and got it wet blocked the next day. I really, really like this shawl. Let me introduce you to my current favorite knit:

Look at the colors and the fading and the lace and the wavy drape. Don’t you just love this? Doesn’t it look like it should be swimming in the sea. Like… maybe it should be a marine flatworm? I’m sure I saw a swimming creature like this in one of those Planet Earth videos…

This shawl is knit in wedges that use short rows with some lace to build the pattern. The back of the shawl maintains a constant number of stitches while the increases are built onto the sides and front edges. I didn’t completely understand what this would mean in terms of the drape until I was done with the shawl and wearing it.

The back of the shawl hangs with a uniform length that is just perfect to keep your back and shoulders warm. The lace, wedges and fading really shines here.
The increases built into the front sides of the shawl make it drape beautifully while worn. Notice that the two sides are complementary and not identical.

I wore this all day Wednesday and then took it out to do errands with me this afternoon. Because of the shape the shawl stays right where it belongs while wearing it!! If you usually fight with shawls to make them stay where you want them (like I do) or have to resort to a shawl pin to immobilize  them into submission, this is a big deal. The shawl even behaved itself while I was getting into and out of the car!

All of the edges of the shawl are icord, and I have to admit that I was a little sick of it while casting on and binding off. This is not a quick operation, but the finished product is so nice that it was worth the effort. I think that the stable edge contributes to the shawls well-behaved drape.

Here are my project notes. I’m already stash shopping to come with another one of these shawls. Spring colors, don’t you think?

Have a great knitting weekend everyone!

Orchids and Hot Mess Knitting

Today is bright, sunny and warm. No doubt about it, spring is here. Outdoors it is still too soon to plant as there is still another month of possible cold snaps and plant-crushing snow ahead of us, but inside the plants have gotten the message.

I’ve been monitoring the growth of this flowering stem on an orchid for weeks. Yesterday the buds finally opened. So happy with this bloom color!

I bought grow lights last fall and moved some of my favorite plants and roses back indoors for the winter. The plants eventually quit blooming and some of the roses are engaged in mildew/spider mite wars. So far those roses are winning, but there have been some close calls and trips to the garage for treatment and isolation. The orchids, however, have just flourished under the new lights and my jade plants put out so much new growth that I took cuttings and started several new pots. Anyway, never mind the jade plants… look at what happened with the orchids!

Most of my orchids have grown several new leaves over the winter and put out numerous new roots. Really, so many roots that I’m not quite sure what to make of it. Should I put new pots under these roots? Put the orchid into a bigger pot? Transfer it to a huge container and wait to see what happens?

I need to do some internet searches to see if I can propagate new orchids from those roots… I look at this plant and wonder if I should stop feeding it orchid food. Strangely, the orchid that is blooming has the worst growth of the bunch; maybe all of its energy is going into the blooms? Right now it is an orchid mystery and I’m just enjoying the blooms.

The rest of my time has been spent nursing an infected ankle (No, I don’t want to talk about it! Bad ankle, bad!) and knitting away endlessly on projects that never seem to get done. I keep adding new balls of yarn, knitting away, but they are still not done. I am drowning in yarn here, people!

I’ve been saving this Dark Side of the Moon (Alexandra’s Crafts) for a year looking for the right project. A little concerned about how the purple flashes of color will appear I started the V-Neck Boxy (Joji Locatelli) a couple of weeks ago. Hey, it’s best to not overthink these things. Just cast on and do it. What can go wrong? If the purple pools I will just alternate skeins or rip it out … I excel at ripping things out!
It’s a keeper!! I’m not alternating skeins at all and am happy with the effect of the purple flashes. My project notes are here.

I’m now below the V-neck and knitting like crazy on the body. This sweater is really, well, boxy, and each round of knitting takes forever, and the length is growing, but slowly. Once I was below the increases and shaping for the upper part of the sweater it became “knit until you have the length you want” knitting. I keep knitting, and knitting, and knitting, and knitting… you get the idea. I put it aside to hibernate for a little while.

Socks! Let’s do some quickly rewarding socks, I told MacKenzie.

I’ll do these cute Geology Socks with the left over fingering yarn from my Sturgill sweater! Won’t these look cute? MacKenzie agreed that it was a good plan, ate some cookies, and headed off to bed.

Umm… there is a reason they say you should read the pattern carefully before you start knitting. I skimmed the pattern text, found the pattern chart for the size sock that I wanted, and got to work. I love charts! Oops. This chart is not designed to be knit exactly as presented as the pattern is designed to allow individual customization; lots of customization. I ended up ripping out the sock twice! Ugh. The yarn and needles went into time out right next to the V-Neck Boxy sweater.

Looking for instant gratification I started this Sea Swell Shawl using yarn in the colorways of the Sturgill sweater.

Yep. Not sure what I was thinking here beyond that this was a stunning design and I wanted it right this second!! This is another endless knitting project. The balls slowly shrank as I knitted on and on and on in garter stitch broken every now and then with lace. I worried about the yardage of the third color, the wine-colored yarn, as part of it had been used to knit the Sturgill sweater… that ball is only 75 grams of yarn, and I used almost all of the first ball of yarn before the switch to pink occurred. Ugh! Maybe I should use the dark grey from the Geology socks for the third color and make the socks out of the wine colored yarn…

Last night I FINIALLY got to the part of the shawl where you start the third color and I used the dark grey from the socks. It will be great. It will go with more things in my wardrobe. I won’t have to stress about running out of yarn. My project notes are here.
Sitting in bed with MacKenzie and listening to an audiobook I cast on and started the Geology Socks for the third time using the wine colored yarn. Fast knitting as I have now memorized the charts and as everyone knows, the third time is the charm. My project notes are here.

After agonizing over yarn choices, amounts of yarn, and in what combinations I should be using them, I am finally happy with what is coming off of my needles. The only trouble is… there is so much endless knitting ahead of me. Endless knitting broken up only be the little charts of the geology socks.

I’m dreaming of a new project. Hmm… maybe I should go stash shopping. I could cast on a couple of new projects… Nordiska is calling me… I saw a fast cowl pattern at the LYS…

Hot mess knitting is pretty exhausting, but for me it may be an essential part of my creative process. Eventually I will have finished projects. Stay tuned, it is sure to happen someday soon.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone. If there is a holiday celebration for you this weekend, I do hope that it is a good one.

The Yarn Destash Resolution: 3 Month Report

Right at the start of this year I cleaned out my yarn stash and made myself face a brutal truth: there is a lot of yarn in there. Maybe more than I can use in my lifetime. Maybe I should start to make a conscious effort to decrease the size of my stash…

Yarn stash.
Behold the yarn stash. 

Thus a New Year’s resolution was born: get at least 50 skeins of yarn out of the stash!! I made some basic rules, started a spreadsheet to track my progress, cast on some projects and got into action.

After 3 months I am happy to report that I have made some significant progress. Really, I’ve done a pretty good job of cleaning  yarn out of the bins above. I’ve actually emptied two bins!!

Details of the mitt.
I’ve made two pairs of mitts, these fabulous mitts above for a Knitworthy niece and a pair of thrummed mitts. Okay, these projects really were fussy and slowed me down. They were a lot of time and work, but will be prized possessions for years to come. Total skeins used: 2
Cowl on wooden bear.
In the gloomy days of winter I whipped out two different cowls, a Clinkerbell cowl and this Dissent Cowl. Total skeins used: 3
Finished sweater on the Mother of Cats.
The big workhorses in stash depletion were two sweaters that took time to knit, but really ate up the yarn mileage. This Sturgill sweater and the Daelyn were both knit from the top down and were fast knitting once I hit the stockinette-in-the-round portions of the sweaters. Total skeins used: 12

Have you been keeping count? The above projects used up a whopping 17 skeins of yarn and there were some other small projects that used up 4 more skeins over the last three months; 2 shawls and a pair of socks.

Did you do the math? So far this year I have knitted my way through 21 skeins of yarn!! I am well on the pace to finish off 50 skeins before the end of the year.

Through all of this knitting my trusty feline sidekick (and taskmaster) has been at my side and on my knitting, kneading the fabric into shape (with his now cut off claws!) and chomping on my yarn.

Cat sleeping in shawl.
Seriously. Every project I knit has pictures of him as close as he can get to the action. This is a shot of him on my Color Study shawl. 
Cat and toy mouse.
So of course I made a little mouse using yarn from the Daelyn sweater.

So there it is. Three months. 21 skeins of yarn used up. Things are going well and I’m feeling pretty good about getting at least 50 skeins cleared from the stash.

It was with this cocky and self-assured “I-am-a-knitting-machine”  attitude that I went to the Interweave Yarn Fest last week and hit the marketplace with my BKB Deb. Oops. You might say that I fell off the “buy no yarn” wagon.

But that is another post.

MacKenzie Speaks: Finished Objects

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Sad Cat
Do you see how sad I an? I was placed into time out for sleeping in the Mother of Cats new shawl. I just kneaded it with my claws a little bit…
Cat sleeping in shawl.
It is a wonderful shawl! Soft and so warm. This shawl has cashmere and silk in it with the merino. Perfect for a little cat nap, but the Mother of Cats was all NOPE!! and took me off.  Why is the Mother of Cats so mean to me?
Close up of shawl.
Do you see those nice colors? They are just perfect with my fabulous coat of fur.
Finished shawl.
I guess it looks okay on a human, but it is much better as a bed for me, don’t you think?
Shawl start
She also had this last little shawl to finish from Christmas…
Christmas shawl.
Nice, Mother of Cats. A little late, don’t you think? Typical human laziness. She should have devoted more time to me since she was going to be late anyway.

It is snowing outside today and the Mother of Cats and I have been working on her plants and have started some new knitting projects. I can’t wait to tell you all about what we have been up to.

After a nap.

And some cookies!

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • The first shawl is called Color Study and it is knitted with two different yarns from Western Sky Knits. This is the softest shawl that I now own; the knitted fabric is just fabulous! You can find my project notes here.
  • The Christmas colored shawl is another Close to You and the yarn is made from Brew City Premium Draft Sock in the colorway “Silver Bells” . Fast, easy, simple pattern that I’m love wearing for a little warmth in the cold weather. My project notes are here.
  • These two projects used up 3 skeins of yarn. Only 47 left to meet my goal for the year.