If you’re going through hell, keep knitting.

OK, this is going to be a serious post eventually, but before I talk about the sad and painful stuff that has been going on in the Midnight Knitter family I thought that I should get all the fun stuff out of the way. Therefore I present to you for your admiration my WIPs for the week, a terrific score at the bead store, and the results of way too much creative agonizing.

Sleeve
I made some great progress on the drijfhout sweater over the last two days. I’m almost done with the first sleeve. Like the red stripe?

 

 

Cat wearing Hoodie
Photo credit: kristinroach

I found the perfect pattern to make MacKenzie a cat hoodie with the left over yarn. Won’t this look nice on the big guy? I think that the body of the sweater should be grey stripes and the hood, sleeves and contrast details will be in red. The pattern, by Kristin Roach, is free on Ravelry.

Sheep beads
…and look what was waiting for me at the bead store: sheep!! These will make the cutest stitch markers ever. I scored 10 of the little cuties.

 

 

Now for the creative burn. For reasons that will become obvious later on in the post I have been driving around a lot this week, up at all hours of the night, and longing for comfort knitting.  What could be better to fit the bill than to put together a Find Your Fade shawl? I’ve torn apart the stash a couple of times trying to put together a fade shawl. This is one of those deals where as soon as I started to drift off to sleep I would think of another potential skein to put into the mix. I agonized over it; should the shawl be a gradient or something more like a quilt? I finally dragged a crate of yarn into the LYS to have my friends help me with these decisions and to locate a couple of additional skeins to finish up the fade. Here’s what I ended up with:

Yarns for shawl.
A shawl that plays with rose, gold and rich caramel colors. My friends kept pulling out the purple from the set of yarns, but damn it, I want purple!!! so it went back into the group. The yarns don’t look that different in the picture, but in life they are varied and they play off of each other and pull out highlights in other yarns across the shawl. OK, I still worry about this one.

 

 

 

Yarns for shawl
Fade number two. In this shawl the colors progress from the dark grey counterclockwise around to the rust colored yarn. Several of the yarns are alpaca/silk and the finished shawl will be very yummy. Everyone agrees that this fade is in good shape.

I started the rose gold fade this evening and plan to alternate between the shawls and sweater. Why start with the fade that I’m a little worried about? I need to knit in that purple before my friends and fellow knitting addicts find out what I’ve done. It’s crazy I know. I think it’s actually because I’m the most invested in this shawl.

Now on to the trauma and chaos. Exactly two weeks ago a text arrived late in the evening.  “Call me,” it said. “I think I need to go to hospital. I’m in trouble.” I was on the phone and in the car driving within minutes. It was from a member of my family with diabetes, and he was in diabetic keto acidosis. Off to the hospital we went!

Whew. Scary, but handled. We got him home from the hospital a couple of days later and I settled in to stay with him while he recovered. Then there was a phone call…

Another member of the family had been rushed to the hospital with serious bleeding. Tests, more testing, surgery, and then lab reports: colon cancer. The chemo starts in two weeks.

Then the horrible just kept on coming. His dog had a seizure and died the last night he was in the hospital.

Maybe you’re guessed already. I have two sons, and both of them were struck with serious and life threatening health emergencies within the last two weeks; in truth, the end is not yet in sight. Without any warning the family motto became “our brand is crisis…” There’s nothing for it but to keep on focusing on the one thing before you as everything comes unglued. Food to prepare, prescriptions to fill, my grandson to hug, trips across town, prayers, and endless phone calls.

and knitting.

When you find yourself in hell, keep knitting.

Shawls Update: Good Dog and Bad Cats

Two shawls got finished last week. Check this out:

Shawl #1: Putting on the Dog

My friend Deb had a dog named Jake who was really special. She saved his fur for years when she brushed him, and earlier this year I spun some of the dog down into yarn. I blogged about Jake and the spinning here and this post showed the final yarn.

Oh. It's pretty comfy. Maybe dogs aren't that bad after all...
MacKenzie really liked the finished yarn (which Deb named PuppyPaca)
Shawl in Tree
Look! Here is the finished shawl made with the PuppyPaca. Didn’t it turn out great?
Deb Modeling her Shawl
Here is Deb modeling the finished product. I think that the green really complements the homespun.

Deb has begun her own blog recently where she writes about greyhounds, gardening, and, what else, knitting!! You can visit her site, The Greyt Knitting Frenzy, and see her post about the shawl here.

Shawl #2: Bad Cats

I finished knitting my Random Act of Color shawl late last week and wet blocked it Saturday morning. I really liked how it turn out. Here’s some pics of the final product.

Shawl
Look at how great the colors turned out together. I love the lace, the texture, the colors; a great addition to my cool weather wardrobe.
Edging and Beads
The beads and the edging are nice details, don’t you think?

What I’m not showing in the pictures is the fact that one of my bad, bad, cats got a claw stuck in the shawl (it was safe on the table at the time…), dragged it through the house and managed to pull a TEN FOOT snag of yarn out. Really. I’m not exaggerating. I found it in a crumpled heap at the bottom of the stairs. The cats were hiding.

Damaged Shawl
Proof of cat badness. This is the yarn that I haven’t been able to work back into the shawl.

The pull goes across almost the entire width of the shawl in the final purple lace section. The yarn didn’t get cut, but I’m not too sure how to repair this. I dreamed last night about cutting off the lower section of the shawl, picking up the stitches at the start of the purple section and then re-knitting the last sections. This morning I work up and thought, “Kitchener stitch!” I’m not quite sure how I’m going to deal with this. There may be a way to gradually work the yarn back into the shawl, but I have to balance time vs. frustration. For now I’ve packed it away (to keep it safe from cats and scissors) and moved on to other knitting projects.

You know, knit through all crisis…

MacKenzie Speaks: Knitting is Hard Work

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

MacKenzie
The Mother of Cats and I have been hanging out in the yard every morning reading and eating breakfast. It is my favorite time of day.
Startled Cat
I love chasing stuff in the garden while she reads. I was hot on the tail of a garter snake when… Wait, what was that?!
Dogs at the Fence
Dogs! What does it always have to be dogs? I lost the snake, too.

Ugh. The Mother of Cats loves the dogs that live next door, but I’m not a fan. How can she expect me to put up with this? Thankfully it was getting hot and she decided to move inside to knit.

Cat and Beads
She’s been putting beads on her Random Act of Color shawl. This looks like it could be fun.
Putting Bead onto Shawl
That does look like fun. She hooks the beads onto the stitches one at a time and then knits them in. Hey, I bet she could use a little help…
Cat
There. I’ll just massage the shawl a little while she puts those beads on. I’m not in the way at all. Oops. Did those beads just spill…
Cat
…sometimes the Mother of Cats can to be lacking in empathy. Really, it is a flaw in her character, don’t you think? I was just helping. How can she expect me to just exist at the foot of the bed soooo far away from the yarn?

She was so cranky that she shifted knitting operations to the family room where she binge watched this show called Nurse Jackie and knitted the binding onto the shawl. I helped her as much as I could; I must have stopped by at least a dozen times to check on her progress. Hey, yarn chomping is helping, right?

After six hours of beading and knitting she finally finished, only to discover that she had made a spacing error in her bind-off. She went to bed with a bag of Cheetos. Let me tell you, it was not pretty! She finished the whole bag and there were sad little sighs along with the Cheetos crunches…

The next morning she ripped out the binding, watched more Nurse Jackie and put the edging back onto the shawl correctly. I was out with the dogs and snakes so it was over before I knew what had happened. Funny, she was much faster this time.

Cat on Shawl
Finally! It is done and pinned to block. I just love the smell of wet yarn, don’t you?

Note from the Mother of Cats: If I’m lucky MacKenzie won’t throw up on this shawl and I’ll have the final picture next week. Happy knitting weekend everyone!

 

Stitch Markers for my “Waiting for Rain” : A Short Tutorial

I started knitting my new shawl over the weekend. The colors are really cool. Check this out:

Knitting
This is the beginning of “Waiting for Rain” by Sylvia Bo Bilvia. That cool yarn is “Garden Party” colored Lydia Sock Yarn.

I grabbed the shot of the knitting just as the sun was getting ready to set, but you can see the great way the flecks of color are showing up in the white yarn. I just love it! I can’t wait to get to the part of the shawl where the lace inserts appear. There are short rows coming, too. Fun!

Today my wrists were sore when I woke up so I decided to take a break from the weaving and knitting today. I vacuumed. I did laundry. I cut out some fabrics to do some sewing later on this week. I also took out my new beads and decided that it was time to make some more stitch markers.

Stitch Markers
These are currently my favorite little stitch markers. They are simple, light weight and perfect for projects using fine yarn like socks and fingerless mitts. The largest bead is a 6mm Swarovski cubic crystal bead. I picked it up at a local store and have never seen them again.
Envelope
A couple of weeks ago I decided to just order some more cubic beads from Amazon.com so I could make new stitch markers. It took almost three weeks for them to arrive. Oh. Who knew they would be shipped from Hong Kong?!
Beads
Here’s what was in the envelope. Two of these bead sets came. Sweet! Eight new stitch markers waiting to be made!
Beading supplies
I cleaned out my beading supplies a few weeks ago. Here’s the little drawer that I keep everything in. I need to use the needle nose pliers and the wire cutters to make the markers along with the beads and wire.
Beading Materials
I made little piles on the table of the bead colors thought I might use along with 2″ headpins and small stainless steel split rings. The rings that I used have an inner diameter of .25″.
Beads on Headpins
After playing around a little I finally settled on a combination of beads that I liked. I threaded them onto the headpins with the largest bead at the bottom. This was just personal taste: I could have also put small beads below the largest bead.
Bending wire
Using my little jewelry pliers to anchor the wire I made a 90 degree bend in the headpin wire with my fingers about 1/4 inch above the beads, and then…
Making loop at top of wire
I wrapped the wire around the headpin a couple of times using my fingers to wrap the wire while holding the loop at the top with the pliers. Easy-peasy!
Cutting excess wire
I cut the excess wire off after finishing the wrap. This is the only dicey part of the entire operation: you should wear safety glasses when you do this because the wire can fly across the table when you cut it. I try to hold the end of the wire when I make the cut, but you never know. Safety first! I even put the cats outside while I was working.
Finished stitch markers
All that was left to do was to thread the marker onto a split ring and they were done. Ta-da! I now have cute markers to use while knitting my “Waiting for Rain” shawl.

Won’t these look cute on my lace shawl?

Can’t wait to get back to knitting. My wrists are feeling better already. Maybe tomorrow. 🙂

 

 

Rocking the Week #1

This is so annoying: here we are at the end of another week and I have NO finished objects to show off. How can this be? The house is littered with projects that I have started or are planning to start soon… I tell myself that I’m just organizing and it will all come together soon. There’s no reason why I can’t have more than one knitting project cast on, right? As long as I’m in single digits I don’t have a problem! Seriously, that is a true statement: ask any knitter.  I am reading books like crazy. Lots is going on, but I’m struggling to put together one theme that would be suitable for a blog post.

So, why don’t I just show you my week? Really, it will be fun. Here are all the moments of the week that prompted me to pull out the camera.

Knitting
I found a tempting pattern for fingerless mitts with a hidden pocket (for hand warmers!!!) on Ravelry called Dueling Gradients. This Kauni yarn that I’ve been itching to try out should work great. The two balls actually have the same colors in them; the way the ball is wound affects the appearance. Sunday I cast on and started playing with the yarns and the pattern.
Warp
Monday I wound off the warp for the dishtowels that I want to weave. Ugh. It is done.
Tree Cookies
Tuesday I taught a Project Learning Tree workshop for teachers in the local school district. I had to sand down this 2 foot wide tree cookie for the teachers to use in one of their activities. Yikes. That was a lot more work than I expected,  but look at those tree rings! This tree was 24 years old when it was cut down.
Happiness
Wednesday I headed to a hospital up north for pulmonary function testing. It’s official now; I don’t breathe as well now as I did a year ago. It’s almost a relief to get closer to the diagnosis: I really am out of breath (and not just out of shape!)  On the way out of the hospital I bought this great figurine in the gift shop.
Cat in yarn shop
and of course I visited another yarn shop. This time I went to Mew Mew’s Yarn Shop, and here is Mew Mew herself. How fun is that! She woke up from her nap while I was there and demanded attention. Mew Mew (and some new fabulous yarn) was just what I needed.
Cat
Thursday I spent the afternoon getting the warp onto the loom with some cat assistance. This is called warping because you descend into a time warp that sucks dry the entire afternoon and leaves you blinking and tied in knots before it is over. Tedious and stressful at the same time. Cat assistance is not appreciated! 
Cat outside
How sad for MacKenzie.
Stitch Markers
Today I finished warping the loom and then made these wickedly awesome stitch markers from some beads I bought at last year’s Interweave Yarn Fest. Wait! I did manage to finish something this week. The stitch markers are actual FOs!!

This evening I finished a fingerless (production knitting) mitt that I started last week and cast on another pair of socks. I now have four knitting projects in progress and a warped loom that I can start weaving on next week. Whew! There’s a lot going on.

Stay tuned for next week. I’m sure I’ll have something done by then. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

First Week in September: Three Bowls, Three Mitts, and a Reyna Shawl

I am knitting and crafting like crazy. Actually I’m enjoying the balmy weather of summer’s end and I’m a little nuts because I just can’t seem to get everything done. The flowers on my deck are at their best. The crickets are chirping. The temperature outside is just about perfect and I am spending my time clicking knitting needles and feeling a little less than my normal cheerful self (more about that below). Still I am making progress and the setting is just about perfect. This afternoon I decided to set up the laptop on my backyard deck and let you all know what I’ve been up to. Here it is.

My sister’s birthday was the 5th of September. I bought her a card a couple of weeks ago and I sat down and got these bowls done in plenty of time to send to her. Here the are!

Fabric bowls
A set of fabric bowls. Bet she never saw this coming! She does sew a lot and I thought that she might find these useful in her crafting area or maybe on her desk. I found the pattern online at Quilter in Motion.
Fabric Bowl
I just love the fabric! This is a Laurel Burch pattern that I found last year.

I still haven’t mailed them off to my sister. They are now days overdue but I do have an excuse (OK, it’s pathetic, but still… It’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!). My rheumatologist started me on a new medication for my systemic sclerosis (scleroderma) called CellCept, and it just doesn’t like me. Every part of my digestive system hurts!! Boo! Today I got up and decided that I am done with heartburn (not to mention middle of the night barfing) and e-mailed my doc to ask for something else from the land of pharmacological wonders. This morning I didn’t take my pill and this afternoon I plan to make the trip to the post office. Hang on sis! They really are coming…

Now the knitting makes sense, doesn’t it. No matter how upset my digestive system is I still manage to eat (yogurt is my friend) and knit. Lots of knitting has been going on. I dug in this last week and worked like crazy on the mitts that I am designing for Alta Vida Alpacas for Alpaca Farm Days which happens later on this month. They plan to sell kits of yarn with the pattern to visitors to the farm. I’ve been trying to make simple patterns that show off the yarn. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

Mitts
This yarn is sportweight, 50% cotton (which gives it some slubs and texture), 25% wool and 25% alpaca (yum!). The yarn knits up great, feels light on your hands but is also soft, comfy and warm. I wanted them to look easy to knit (hello… trying to sell some kits here!!) but appealing. Please lay on the feedback people!

Like those colors? This is Colorado (AKA Broncos  Country) and the football season starts this coming week. Yeah Broncos!! The thumb on the stripped mitt is a little different from the usual shape that I favor and I’m still thinking of knitting a stripped version with slower increases. The thumb on the solid mitts is more like what I like to knit and wear. It fits your hand with no pull across the hand and the ribbing on the top of the thumb is loose enough to allow you to wear the mitts over gloves. (Reynaud’s makes you think about things like that!) Be honest here: does that stripped thumb look goofy? Should I change it?

Beaded Mitt
Beads! This is the same yarn in a version with some fun and glitz. The picot CO was new to me. Here’s the link to an online tutorial that does it the same way that I did. 🙂

So the knitting continues. I want to make the mate for the beaded mitt before the end of the week, and then will do a pair of stripped mitts with a more gradual thumb increase in blue and off-white. Next I have to write the patterns, but I’ve kept lots (and lots!) of notes while I knitted so I am feeling pretty positive about that next step.

Finally, I’m making some steady progress on the only knitting project that is just for me. Check out the Reyna shawl that is finally getting towards the end of it’s knitting journey.

Reyna Shawl
I’m finally on the last section of mesh lace. I’m pretty nervous about the size of the ball of yarn; it’s clear that there isn’t enough to finish the shawl as the pattern is written.  I’m weighing that ball fairly often so I can figure out when I need to stop knitting lace and switch over to the last garter rows and the BO. I’m giving myself about 7 grams to get the job done. 
Knitting
Here’s a close-up of the pattern. I learned some new things as I knitted this shawl. The YO’s in the garter section are hidden by knitting in the back loops on the wrong side rows.  Who knew that was a thing? I’m liking how it looks, however, Here are my project notes on Ravelry.

That’s the week. I’ve been reading a lot too, but I think that should wait for another post. And the flowers that I’ve got blooming on my deck are so fabulous they are crying for a post of their own…

Hope you all had a great week (and no barfing!!).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FO: Edith’s Secret done at last!

I have been knitting all week on my Edith’s Secret shawl by Kristin Ashbaugh-Helmreich. Finally, at 2am on Wednesday night (I’m the Midnight Knitter, remember…) I was approaching the end of the bind-off when I paused to look back at all of my fabulous knitting and saw <gasp!> a double picot where there should only be one. NNNOOOOOOO!!! That was that. I stuffed Edith into her project bag and went to bed.

Cat on shawl.
Once again my cat MacKenzie closely supervised all of my work. Here he is on the wet shawl while I was blocking it. I had to cover it with a towel overnight to keep it safe: MacKenzie slept on the towel on the floor all night.

Yesterday in the sunshine I frogged back through the binding, reknitted it with the correct number of picots (one at the tip of each leaf detail in the final lace section) and cut the yarn at last. Blocking happened overnight (with my cat MacKenzie sleeping on top of the towel-covered shawl all night…) and here Edith is in all her glory.

Shawl in tree.
Edith on the arms of my usual shawl model: the ash tree. The tree is starting to develop leaf buds so I will have to leave it alone soon. These models are so fussy…
Lace on shawl.
Here’s a close-up of the lace sections with the beads. My hands got a little sore pulling all the beads onto the yarn with the crochet hook, but the final effect is nice. See the little picot detail at the tip of the leaves?  I messed up by putting two on one leaf. 
Here it is on a chair which shows the drape a little better then the tree did.  A little dark, but you get the idea. :-)
Here she is on a chair which shows the drape a little better then the tree did. A little dark, but you get the idea. 🙂

Here’s my project notes on Ravelry in case you would like more details.

I am so glad that Edith is done, but now I am in a slump for sure. I even did my taxes today as I wasn’t quite sure what project to start knitting next.

Cat on desk.
This is my cat Morgan helping me get my income tax filing in order. He’s not really into knitting supervision, but put a piece of paper on a table, boot up the computer, and there he is. I hope that my tax lady likes cat fur…

I’ve placed the likely yarn candidates on the dining room table, and each time I head upstairs I kind of pat different skeins of yarn and consider the projects that they might be used for. So hard to make these decisions… Such beautiful color, and half of the skeins contain cashmere and silk too. I may have to start several projects all at once.

Amazing yarn.
Look at this! This yarn wants to become art: it even says so on the label. What should happen to it? Socks, mitts, little shawl? I’m tending towards the shawl (garter stitch, picots, eyelets, but no other lace.) Maybe a little Hitchhiker? Help!

Happy knitting everyone and have a good weekend.