WIP Wednesday: Half-Finger MItts and a Fabulous Hitchhiker

Thank heavens we had a sunny day. I shoveled the snow off the deck so the cats could get outside and I would have a place to lay out knitted items for some pictures. As usual MacKenzie had other ideas about this.

Cat and yarn
I turn my back for just a second and there he is, chomping yarn and putting hairs onto everything…

Still, I got some shots during beaks in the action, and here is what I’m working on right now.

Red alpaca half gloves.
This yarn is Blue Sky Alpacas’ sport weight. It is a two ply yarn made of 100% baby alpaca.

I really liked fellow blogger Andre Sue’s half finger mitts that she shared with us. (Here’s her pattern). My hand is really short and fat with nice swollen fingers so I had to make alterations to her pattern so it would work on my hand.  (“Oh my, your hands are really puffy,” commented a nurse while getting me ready for an endoscopic GI exam. “Did you know your fingers are turning purple..?”) Thank you Reynaud’s and scleroderma. I’ll be putting these fabulous alpaca half-gloves on for the next visit to the gastroenterology torture chamber.

Yep. That's my hand.
Yep. That’s my hand. Short, wide and puffy.

I wear lots of layers these days including these comfy kimono sleeve sweaters from J.Jill. I made the cuff of the gloves a little longer than Andre Sue’s pattern called for so that they would cover the gap between my hand and the bottom of the sleeve. I’m thinking that I want to add some embellishments that I will share with you all when I get the pictures of the finished mitts posted. Maybe by Friday if I hustle. There is a big snowstorm coming this weekend, and they sure would be nice and warm to wear…

Hitchhiker
I just love, love, love the feel of this yarn. 
Closeup of yarn.
Don’t these colors look like they were made to be with a grey sweater?  This is Serenity 20 from Zen Yarn Garden in the colorway Jewel.

I’m also working on another Hitchhiker made with the fabulous 20% cashmere hand-painted yarn that practically threw itself at me last week (that would be the yarn in the serendipitous phenomenology post). I have about half of the points done, but still a lot of yarn left to knit as the shawl gets wider the longer you knit. I just love the colors and it is working up to be really nice; the hand and drape will be just what I want. Can’t wait to get this one done too.

Well that’s it for this week. I plan to really get cracking on finishing all of these up. I’ve been looking at shawl patterns, and I have a couple of weeks of knitting before I need to start on the March New Year’s resolution sock.  Gosh, it would be really nice to have a new shawl (I mean, a shawl that is NOT a Hitchhiker. You know, something with lace in it that involves reading a chart… Beads too. I definitely need beads). I wonder if my family would like shawls for their Christmas presents?

Time to go dig in the stash!!

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FO: Cat Supervised Hitchhiker

I really like my cat MacKenzie. I found him one day standing in a cage at PetsMart. The previous owner had walked in and surrendered him a few weeks previously. You guessed it: he was a bad boy. He was such an obviously intelligent cat I decided to take a chance and brought him home with me.

Cat
Here he is out in the garden. He doesn’t look like a slasher of walls, furniture and curtains, does he? On this day he chased a poor garter snake all over the garden until I rescued it.

Oh dear, there was not a surface of the house that he didn’t try to sharpen his claws on. He knocked things down and broke china. He tore up my plants, dragged his toys all over the house, and was in general an instrument of mayhem. I bought more toys, got scratching posts for almost every room of the house, adopted a second cat to be a companion to him, and gave him yarn to play with. I wired the backyard fence with an “invisible fence” wire and trained him to not jump out of the yard so he could run laps out there. He became a happy cat. My walls and furniture were safe again; he now loved all things wool.

Now that I’m retired and he is older, he is my constant companion and participates a little more in my craft activities than I would like. As usual, he was involved in my latest Hitchhiker.

Knitting with Mac
Knitting outside with Mackenie. He’s too big to fit on my lap, so he covers my legs while I knit.

Yep. That’s why all my knitted gifts come with love and cat hair. The weather was really nice again today so I ate lunch outside and knitted the Hitchhiker for a couple of hours until it was done. Snow is coming Sunday, so I decided to enjoy the nice weather and get some sunshine while I could.

 

Finished Hitchhiker
Here it is! This yarn is Noro Taiyo sock yarn. It’s half cotton, so this will be good for warmer days. The shadow  is MacKenzie hovering to the side; he wants to lay down on the shawl, of course.
Hitchhiker
and this is what it looks like on me.  Can you see some cat hair on it? 🙂
Cat and computer.
Now I’m writing this blog with a tuckered out MacKenzie sleeping on my legs. All that supervision is just exhausting, I guess. 

I’m thinking that maybe I should make him a wool cat bed.  He would enjoy helping with that!

The Art of Serendipitous Phenomenology

When I used to work in a medical research lab one of my co-workers described what we did as mastering the art of serendipitous phenomenology.  I think that he meant that we (hoped to be) alert, observant, curious and reflective about events around us. Big discoveries can occur from chance observations if one pays attention; one of the famous ones is Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin. Another of my coworkers discovered an important immune system inhibitor (which led to a patent and eventually a drug. How cool is that?) Of course, there aren’t any big scientific discoveries in my life right now, but I have had a run of fun occurrences lately. It’s been making me think about serendipity, and that perhaps one of the secrets of finding joy in every day living is in mastering the art of serendipitous phenomenology.

So, here is my run of fun;

Starbuck's Card
I went into a strange Starbucks Sunday on an impulse while picking up Chinese takeout. I needed a new Starbuck’s card as I had just lost mine. Look at what I found!! The hard-to-read text on the left says, “Year of the Sheep”.
Book.
I was in a slump this weekend because I had just finished a good book. I forced myself to start reading the next book on my list, and it’s a science fiction with the title of WOOL!!  It’s a really good book, too. How much fun is that?
Yarn
Serenity 20 sock yarn by Zen Yarn Garden. The colorway is Jewel.

I was already contemplating serendipity when I arrived at my favorite local yarn store yesterday. I had a hazy notion that I wanted to get a cashmere blend yarn that would look nice with grey to make another Hitchhiker (by Martina Behm). Going through the sock yarns with a friend a skein suddenly fell out of its cubby and landed on the floor at my feet. “Well, there’s your yarn”, said my friend. There it was indeed! This yarn is 20% cashmere. The color is perfect for me and my new grey sweater. After going through all the yarn we could not find one that was a better fit.

Hey, who am I to argue with the universe? This yarn is clearly destined to  become a Hitchhiker. The answer to Life, the Universe and Everything. Obviously I needed to buy this yarn.

See what I did there? Even though this yarn was expensive I was able to absolutely justify buying it with my smoking post-Christmas credit card.

And that is the Art of Serendipitous Phenomenology, my friends.

 

 

February Socks are Done!

I know, I know. This is Wednesday and I should be writing a post about what I have on my needles. The truth of the matter is, yesterday I got up and realized that I had five different projects going right now. Naturally I responded by going directly to my favorite yarn store and indulging in some yummy cashmere blend yarn. Clearly I need to exercise some self restraint and get some knitting done before I cast on the newest project. Last night I really applied myself, and I am happy to announce: The February Socks are Done!!! (Ta-daa!!) (Sorry about that if you clicked on the link. Now you know what life was like in my biology classroom…)

So, without any further ado, here they are:

Socks
I decided to reverse the colors in the second sock. Fun, huh! You can also see that I sucked it up and knitted the entire twined topper on the second sock.
Heels of socks.
The heel construction of these socks allowed them to be worked stranded without cutting the yarn.

Well, they certainly are rustic looking, aren’t they? I am now referring to them as the Mongolian Boots. They are warm, warm, warm, however, and that is what I wanted. It is nice and sunny outside today, but as soon as the snow and cold come back I am ready.

I really learned a lot with these socks; here are some of the highlights of the adventure.

  • Swedish knitting genes aside, twining isn’t for everyone. Stranding was faster, easier, and I didn’t have to spend half my time untwisting the yarn. I twined only the tops of the socks, and stranded the rest.
  • I know how to knit with both hands so I can carry one color in each. Purl with both hands: not so much. My second heel (sock on the left) looks much better than the first one.
  • When making a decision about which color to call your MC, you should write that down. The increased stitches in the gusset look much better in sock #2 because I was following the directions. Duh!
  • If you can’t figure out complicated directions at some point (final join of heel to gusset) just make your best guess, knit a bunch of stitches together and move on. There are no sock police.

Whew! Time to finish up the other projects (get ready HItchhiker, here I come!) so I will be ready for the March socks. New Year’s resolutions are still a go. 🙂

Project Notes: the Basic Sock pattern in Knitting Scandinavian Slippers and Socks by Laura Farson. Yarn: Aran weight wool from my DIL’s trip to Ireland, dyed with Gaywool dyes.

WIP Wednesday: February Sock (AKA Mongolian Boots) Update

It snowed this weekend and I took advantage of the cold weather to work on my February New Year’s resolution socks. Here’s where I’m at:

Sock gusset.
How weird is this? This is not a two thumbed mitt, but the sock nearing the bottom of the heel. The center stitches are the heel flap, and the stitches added to each side are the gusset. The heel turn is next.
Sock in progress.
The heel is turned (little checks) and I have successfully connected the sole to all of the gusset stitches. Looks like it’s designed to fit  a lumpy foot, doesn’t it.
Sock on foot.
It fits my foot! Now, be honest. Doesn’t this look warm? These are so thick and cushy I plan to wear them as indoor slippers or maybe inside my Ugg boots. My son told me they look like Mongolian boots. 

Mongolian boots?! I wonder what those really look like? I wonder what patterns and colors they use? I have more of this Irish wool, and I have to say that it is not what you would wear against your skin. (The sheep that sourced this fiber actually had hair mixed in with their wool! I haven’t seen that since I since I spun some California Red that I got dirt cheap. Pokey, pokey, pokey!!) It is perfect, however, for over-socks/boots. It does dye well, is very lofty and warm, and I’m pretty sure it will felt like a charm. Hmmm…

Introducing the February 2015 Sock

My feet just hate the cold. Once they get cold, they stay cold for a long time. (Yep. It’s a Reynaud’s thing.)  A few weeks ago I came home on a sub-zero night and ended up under the covers wearing layers of wool including socks and my Ugg boots trying to warm up. Seriously, this is ridiculous! Time to fight back!!

Sock and Book
I’m knitting the Basic Sock in the book Knitting Scandinavian Slippers and Socks by Laura Farson.

Say hello everyone to the February sock. <grin> This sock is stranded or twined every single row of knitting including the heels and toes. Doesn’t that sound warm? I’m knitting it in a rustic worsted weight wool (this is the same Irish wool that got dyed in my canning jars a couple of posts back) that is lofty and very warm. I’m using yarn that is heavier than what is called for in the pattern, so they will be larger and more dense. These are the kind of socks that I can use as slippers over lighter socks while indoors, or they can stay on my feet while I’m wearing my snow boots. They are going to be warm, warm, warm!!!

I am so motivated to have warm feet!!

Anyway, this pattern is very interesting and I am learning lots of new tricks. The cast on was “Two-Strand Twisted German Cast On” which seems a lot like Old Norwegian cast on, but with two colors.

Top of ock.
The blue yarn at the top shows the cast on and two rows of the twined garter stitch edging.

The edging continued with twined garter stitch, also new to me, and created so much twist in the working yarn that I abandoned  it and moved on to the checker stitch without finishing the last two rows. Instead of twining I’m knitting the rest of the sock stranded. The twining is much stretchier than what would be traditional for a Scandinavian sock, but I want to get these socks done before the next bad cold snap.

Inside of sock.
All this stranding is going to make the socks cushy and warm. Warm is good.

Anyway, I’m happy with my stranding: look how plush and warm it looks!!

Gusset of sock.
The gusset is created by adding stitches to each side of 25 central stitches. Later they will be reduced in the construction of the bottom of the heel. There is no heel flap and picked-up stitches. All new to me!

The heel is worked in a way that I have never seen before, but it looks like it will be a good fit on my foot. I’m getting close to the bottom of the gusset now, and the heel looks pretty challenging, so this might be something of a learning curve. 🙂 I’m knitting with two cable needles instead of my usual double points, and I am finding out that this is easier for trying on the sock while it’s being knitted.

So here it is. The February sock is going to be fun, I’ll learn lots of new techniques, and I should end up with warm feet. Yeah!

WIP Wednesday: Another Hitchhiker and Mitts

It has been crazy weather time in Colorado. While the news is full of the huge snowstorm that hit New England, I have been outside in the sunshine with the cats reading and knitting. Yesterday we almost set a new record when we hit 75 degrees! Today is not as warm, but it was nice enough to give one of my cats a bath.

Within minutes of being released from the drying towels he was at the food bowl. Little does he know that the hair dryer is next...
Within minutes of being released from the drying towels Morgan was at the food bowl. Little did he know that the hair dryer was next…

Here he is tanking up on cat food after his traumatic ordeal.  🙂 Morgan is a (bob-tail) Maine Coon, which meant that a serious blow-dry and brush-out procedure was next in store for him. He actually likes the hair dryer, so it wasn’t as bad as it could be.

Look at these colors!
Look at these colors!

Still, what with one thing and another I didn’t settle down to knit until late this afternoon. I’m working on another Hitchhiker, this time in Noro Taiyo sock yarn (which is cotton, wool, nylon and silk). The colors are cool, but it isn’t as squishy as the last Hitchhiker that I made out of wool. It will be nice for summer. I keep thinking of ways to make a Hitchhiker-shaped scarf with gathered lace along one edge instead of points.  Hmmm…

Yep. No thumb.
Yep. No thumb. This yarn is Baah! La Jolla sock yarn in the colorway “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”

I’m also making some vine lace mitts that still don’t have their thumbs knitted on. As usual, I’m going to have a little stack of thumb-less mitts piled up before I force myself to finish them. Then there is the matter of the pattern for these mitts which I need to write out a little better before I forget what I’m doing. Here’s the project page on Ravelry for the mitts with kind of a half pattern.

Maybe I’ll save the mitt thumbs for the snow day that is bound to come. March and April are the big snow-makers here. You never know. 🙂