Ready for the Magic!

I really don’t like to do this, but the first step in recovery is to admit that you have a problem. That assumes, of course, that you are interested in actually recovering from your addiction…

Yarn
I keep buying these gray-toned yarns with flecks of pink and purple in them… I think that I have actually bought five different 2-skein sets of this type of yarn with the idea of making another “Waiting for Rain” shawl.  Maybe, I told myself, it can become ANOTHER Find Your Fade. I’m in my 60’s now, and my hair is starting to go gray…  I’m wearing more black and this yarn will go with my entire wardrobe. Do I need any more excuses? No, not really. This yarn had me at “hello!”

Nope. Not recovering today. There is no problem here. I love yarn, I love to knit, it makes me happy, and there are few things that make you decide to do what makes you feel happy like getting diagnosed with a possibly-fatal autoimmune condition. Oh. For one thing, you notice that the condition of life itself is eventually fatal… whatever have I been waiting for?  Buy yarn. Time to knit!

Still there is the issue of what to do with all of this awesome yarn?

34742949562_b375dd92e1_n

This is the Marled Magic Sweater by Stephen West (photo credit: westknits). Hey, wouldn’t this be the perfect solution to consume that yarn and make something that will carry me through the cold of winter wrapped in absolute cushy yumminess?  Yes, yes it will!! I downloaded the pattern that week and read the directions. Oops. This is going to be challenging and it is going to take a lot of yarn. Stephen suggests that you stock up/locate about 1500 grams of the stuff to make your yarn palette. Good think I have a stash that reflects my true yarn-addiction status.

Pile of yarN.
I pulled out every yarn that I thought I could use and piled it all in a couple of large bins. After that I sorted the yarn into color grouping and sadly make some cuts. Then I made some more cuts. This is what I was left with…
Lace weight yarns.
The marl in the fabric is created by knitting with two strands of yarn held together. I pulled out lace weight yarns in the colorways that I was looking for. This is mostly mohair, silk, and alpaca yarn. I have a lot of the steel gray mohair at the lower right hand corner, and will use the other colors to spice things up.
Yarn collage.
Then I pulled out these fingering weight yarns to accent the gray mix yarns that I started out with: blues, purples and rose/pinks. I have some golds and teals that I put back into the stash, but they may sneak back into the working yarn palette later. I put in the gray Brooklyn Tweed Loft too as Stephen suggested that it be included if possible to help cut the weight and to prevent stretching.

Pretty intimidating, but I am getting ready to so some serious yarn winding and should get the project page on Ravelry started soon. Wow. This is a lot of yarn to enter, and then there will be the notes…

Good thing I am a true addict!!

PS: my rheumatologist told me that I should knit as much as I can to help keep functionality in my hands. Never did medical advice fall on such fertile soil… not that I needed another excuse. 🙂

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MacKenzie Speaks: Meet the Danzig Shawl

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Cat
Do I look a little grumpy here? It’s hot!!

The Mother of Cats has been hard at work getting all of her knitting projects done. The last one in her WIP basket was this shawl that has been dragging on for weeks.

Cat and knitting.
I don’t understand why she is so slow sometimes. I help her as much as I can…
Shawl
Here is her shawl the day that we started it. Nice colors, huh. She got that pink yarn for her birthday last year, and the gray is some yarn that she had in her stash. She won’t let me play in the stash room; I think that she needs to learn to share her toys a little better, don’t you?
Cat sitting on shawl.
We finished knitting the shawl early this week and once it was blocked (WHY does she cover it with towels while it is blocking? Doesn’t she understand how yummy it is to roll around in wet wool?) we took it outside for pictures. Gosh, this is nice and squishy. Too bad it isn’t wet any more…
Stitch Detail.
Look at how cool the stitch is in the colored sections. The Mother of Cats had to keep turning the knitting back and forth to make the “pebbles”, which was exciting for me as I got to whap the yarn every time she made a turn. She called it “short rows”. Whatever. I called it exciting.
Detail of knitting.
She even used a row of the “pebbles” at the edge of the shawl. Yummy!
Shawl
Here’s the big view of the finished shawl. Hmmm… wouldn’t that look nice in my cat bed?

 

Cat in garden.
So that’s it. She’s taking a little break from the knitting while she gets gardening and other stuff done. Me, I’m hanging out in the cat mint staying cool. Maybe a little later I’ll visit with the Enemy Cat from next door… NOT!! Yellow Boy put a claw into him a couple of days ago and that was the last time he come over the fence into OUR YARD!! Good riddance. I must say, I was a little shocked by some of the language that came out of Yellow Boy’s mouth. Who knew he was a secret brawler?

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

Shawl

  • I am very happy with the size and fit of this shawl. After knitting three “Find Your Fade” shawls this one was the perfect size for easy wearing. The pattern is Danzig by Justyna Lorkowska,  and my Ravelry project notes are here.
  • MacKenzie was an adult when I adopted him, and he had picked up quite a few bad habits before he came home with me. Actually, he was a handful, and clearly needed more stimulation than I could provide. I found him a Maine Coon kitten to be his companion, and while MacKenzie is my pet, Yellow Boy is MacKenzie’s baby that he grooms and fusses over. Yellow Boy is easily frightened and has been know to wail from time to time. Who knew he would put Enemy Cat into his place?
  • I started a new sweater a couple of days ago and spent time organizing yarn for the next massive knitting project, the Marled Magic Sweater by Stephen West. He suggested that at least 1500 grams of yarn be gathered up to use in the shawl. Done! I’ll show it off in my next post.

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!

MacKenzie Speaks: Summer is here!

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

I couldn’t wait for summer to get here. Bugs, garter snakes, mornings in the swinging lawn chair, lots of late afternoons in the garden…

Hot cat
Ugh… why is it so hot?

How am I supposed to chase bugs? This is all Yellow Boy’s fault, I’m just sure of it. The Mother of Cats says that this is record-breaking heat, whatever that means. I just want it to cool off enough to whap a couple of grasshoppers. Is that too much to ask?

Cat
Why do I get blamed for EVERYTHING?

Anyway, happy summer everyone. The Mother of Cats and I will be spending as much time as we can taking it easy in the swinging lawn chair…

Cat and owner in lawn chair
Aren’t I handsome?

…and when I’m not patrolling to ensure Enemy Cat isn’t in the yard I’ll be on the lookout for moths and hopping things. Hey, summer is for cats!

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats: yesterday we set a new heat record in Denver, Colorado, and today we missed the record by a single degree; it is so bad I have to carry the cats in as they refuse to cross the hot deck. We are all outside in the mornings while I drink my latte, water the plants and do a little knitting, then it is inside for weaving, knitting, and cat naps.

Rose
Luckily the roses are loving the heat, and the tomatoes are growing like weeds.

Happy summer everyone.

MacKenzie Speaks: Rolling in the Warp!

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

MacKenzie
The weather has been really nice this week and the Mother of Cats and I have been spending mornings out in the yard before the thunderstorms come in the afternoon.

This week the Mother of Cats put all of her knitting away so she could start working on a NEW CAT TOY for me and Yellow Boy. Actually, Yellow Boy is afraid of it, so this new cat toy is all for me.

Warp on loom.
Look at this! Isn’t that the best thing you’ve ever seen? She spent a whole day putting these little yarns (she calls them warp… whatever…) over this board so that I could roll in the pile on the floor. I can’t believe that she cares this much…
Cat attacking warp.
She even put a chair in front of the yarns so that I could easily whap them with my paw!
Cat
What? Whatever are you talking about? I’m not hurting these at all. I’m always careful with my toys…
Cat
OK, you don’t have to make a big deal about it…. 
Cat
The Mother of Cats can be so emotional. I’ve talked about this before, but I do feel that it is a flaw in her character. I was just looking…
Warp on loom.
… and she tied all of my yarns up into little bows so I couldn’t play with them any more. I never realized that the Mother of Cats could behave in such a petty manner!
Woven fabric on the loom.
Now she is completely ignoring me and playing with the yarns all by herself. Hey, this was MY TOY!!! First an Enemy Cat moves into my yard, and now this! She even keeps sitting in my chair. I really don’t understand how she can behave this way. If there wasn’t a thunderstorm outside I would go away and just ignore her. Bad Mother of Cats!

In the late afternoons after the thunder stops the Mother of Cats and I get to go outside to water and chase bugs. Maybe she isn’t so bad after all, even though she seems to have a problem sharing her toys.

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats: I received a commission to make these cotton dish towels a few weeks ago, so after I finished up with the major yard work I pulled out the loom and got her dressed again. Gosh, I have missed weaving. Anyone want a dish towel? Is it too soon to put on a Christmas colored warp?

Knit on, my friends, unless of course you are weaving this week. 🙂

The WIP basket is empty!

It took a month, but look at what has happened:

Cat in empty WIP basket.
MacKenzie has a new toy!

Yep. This is an event of such astonishing rarity it makes a blue moon seem common: every single one of the languishing items hanging out in the WIP basket has been finished. The basket is now empty. MacKenzie was all astonishment for at least 20 seconds before he moved in to make the basket his own. It took the whole month of May, but I now have all of my needles and stitch markers back where they belong.

Socks.
Arent these cute? I love the way the lace pattern switches on the socks to make a mismatched pair.  It wasn’t too bad keeping the different lace patterns under control as a different needle is used on each side of the sock. This pattern is Milfoil by Rachel Coopey. My project notes are here.
Cowl
The moebius cowl that I was working on is also done. Like my model?
Stitch close-up.
Moebius knitting is really fun. I started with Cat Bordhi’s cast on and then knit from the center outward in garter  and blackberry stitch that I had to modify a little to accommodate the circular  knitting and my stiff hands. Because this is a moebius the right side has the “up” side of the blackberry pattern, and the left has the “down” side.
Cowl
When worn the shape allows the wearer to fold the cowl with the same pattern on both sides.
Stitch detail.
This is the same cowl with the other side up. I like them both. If the cowl is doubled up or worn draped around the shoulders both patterns show.

I took really good notes while knitting this time so that I can post the pattern in my next blogging adventure. If you want more info you can find my project notes here. That yarn is Tosh Merino DK in the colorway NIght Hawk. I was worried about how it would knit up, but I like the finished project.

I’m off to cast on a shawl using yarn from the stash and a pattern a friend gave me.

MacKenzie, get out of that basket!

The Scleroderma Chronicles: Year 2.5

Wow. How quickly time flies. It has now been two and a half years since I was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease limited systemic sclerosis (AKA scleroderma), and I joined the rare disease club. When last I reported on my progress I was at the end of a tough year; lung disease, oxygen, a referral to palliative care, gastroparesis, and constant pain. I was having trouble walking and my stomach was really acting up; I was losing weight at the rate of a pound a week. Ugh. I was somewhat upbeat by the end of the second year since I was off oxygen, but still, things weren’t really all that great.

Mitts and bracelet
Look at the cute mitts I made in teal, the color of scleroderma. I got that bracelet last fall at a scleroderma patient education conference that loaded me up with lots of great information.

What a difference six months can make. A change in medication made my Raynaud’s much easier to handle. I started doing yoga (carefully) a few months ago and added tart cherry extract as an anti-inflammatory that I can tolerate better than traditional NSAIDs. I bought shoes that felt better on my feet (Haflinger clogs) and got serious with stretching exercises for the plantar fasciitis I developed due to tightening on the bottoms of my feet. I switched to a gastroparesis diet that is mostly easy-to-digest, low fiber foods (got to love pasta and yogurt to do this one…) and began to add some blended  fruits and veggies. My weight loss stopped and I started to gain back some weight. My skin has started to loosen up on my right arm (scleroderma literally means “hard skin” as the most obvious symptom is thick, hard skin that develops as the result of systemic scarring), which is pretty darn exciting!  Over the last six months my energy has been slowly coming up and I have been managing with less pain; I can even walk normally! I’m breathing better and I rarely need to use the rescue inhaler. There was a Sjogren’s flare, but still, things are better.

I just finished making the latest round of testing and doctor visits, and I have to say, it is pretty exciting to visit with happy smiling doctors. My pulmonologist was almost giddy! My lungs and heart have maintained (scleroderma damage tends to be forever…) with almost no new damage; I am right at the edge of trouble, but I’m not there yet. I have good blood work, and even had the first NORMAL kidney function test in over 5 years. My red blood cell count is back down in normal range, and my muscle strength has improved so much I can now easily push shopping carts.  It seems that the increased dosage of immunosuppressants has turned the tide and I am stable. STABLE!! What a wonderful word that is.

I will continue with all of my current drugs for now and there will be more testing in a year, but it is clear that I have definitely pulled up from the nose dive that they through I was in a year ago.

Life is good.

Back to knitting!!