The Saturday Update: Week 46

What a good week I had this week. Okay, the Covid-19 numbers are rocketing up into the stratosphere while people on Facebook still vent about governmental overreach and their refusal to wear a mask (!), but the weather was nice and Hannah and I had a very productive couple of days reading in bed and knitting like banshees. (I bet you didn’t know that banshees knit. Of course they do, and they are very fast while never, ever, dropping a stitch!) I got to the grocery store late one evening and stocked up for a few weeks and cooked up some yummy meals that will last me through the next week. I also went crazy and bought a whole package of creampuffs. It’s my pandemic, and I will eat creampuffs if I want to!!

Knitting

Let’s get right to the knitting, shall we? I finished my Misurina!! Early in the week I took the stitches off the needles and onto a yarn holder to check for fit and things looked good!! Boy, did that get me fired up to knit like crazy! The pattern is for a cropped sweater and advised that you knit 5 inches below the armhole before binding off, but I was like, NOPE!, I will keep knitting until I run out of yarn because cropped isn’t the best look for little short-waisted me. To make sure I had a good feel for the yarn amount I finished the sleeves with my second cake of yarn and then blended the two yarns together as I transitioned from the first cake to the second in the body. I kept picking up speed during the week and finished binding off early this morning. Today I misted the sweater with water and hovered a steam iron over it to block it and the finished sweater is just what I wanted. Look!!

It’s a little tee type sweater that just rocks! Seriously, this is such a comfortable item to wear and I couldn’t be happier. The sweater is knit fairly loosely but is surprisingly warm and a nice layering item. Caitlin Hunter for the win again!! My Ravelry notes are here.

I seem to have spent the rest of the week agonizing over the colors and yarns to use in the next batch of knitting projects. Hannah and I went through the yarn stash over and over as I pulled out yarns and tried to dream up color combinations. I would make a decision only to change my mind the next day and back into the stash we would go. I want to make a Solvi sweater. I bought the pattern for Slipstravaganza but never cast on as I was buried in other knitting projects. Okay, I will be honest… Stephen West is really artistically adventurous and I was a little nervous about committing 5 whole skeins of yarn to a knitting extravaganza if I didn’t know what it was going to look like. I worried about where to put light and dark colors. I love my yarn and didn’t want to waste any… but as this week went on and people in the group began to publish their finished shawls I loved what I was seeing! Now that I know what the final project is I can make good choices about colors and knitting order. I need to make one of these!! I maybe need to make two of them! The pattern required 2 skeins of a main color and three more contrast colors, and after much stash diving Hannah and I came up with two combos of yarn and colors.

I think that the yarns on the left are going to be my first shawl, but I am really torn about the yarns on the right as they might be more useful in the winter. I have two skeins of that navy yarn so it will be the main color; that inky blue sort of screams winter, right? On the other hand, the cheery colors of the yarns on the left might be exactly what I need right now. There is a lot of yarn in these shawls so whichever I pick is going to be my main project for the month along with the sweater. So many decisions. So much yarn that I need to wind…

I am also waiting for The Secret Life of Cats (and dogz), the next knitting adventure designed by Sharon from Security, Casapinka’s snarky, sushi chomping, citation writing, but mostly supportive-to-knitters feline employee. This adventure will be coming in a few more weeks, but I wanted to get started on the yarn selection and came up with these happy and wild colors:

I posted the pictures of the yarn on Facebook to ask if they were too wild for The Secret Life and Sharon says they are A-okay. Yay. More yarn to wind!!

There is also a pattern for a Siamese cat wearing a little Fair Isle sweater that is going to be published by Claire Garland next week. I need that too. I think that some other members of my family are going to want one of them also… the cat doesn’t absolutely need to be a Siamese, as other cats probably also wear darling Fair Isle sweaters… So much knitting, so little time…

Books

Did you notice that I jumped right over the gardening? No gardening going on here lately. Most of my plants are still alive, but how interesting can pictures of jade plants and orchids be when there aren’t any blooms. Hey, do jade plants bloom? Why haven’t I seen any blooms? I may have to look into this…

I’m still immersed in the adventures of Giordano Bruno, philosopher, spy and crime investigator in the 16th century.

I finished Conspiracy last week (Bruno solved the murder mystery, got his lost knife back, and even connected with that woman he was hoping to find in Paris) and started Execution right away. Hey, Bruno has abandoned Paris and King Henri and we are back in London again. Bruno is once again involved in high intrigue uncovering a plot that threatens the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and wouldn’t you know, there has been a murder. Of course. Bruno must insert himself into the conspiracy to execute Elizabeth to make way for Mary Stuart (and the supremacy of the Catholic church in England), derail the plot, solve the murder, keep his knife safely at his side, and maybe, maybe convince the woman of his dreams to marry him. It’s a lot. I’m reading my way steadily through this latest chapter in Bruno’s adventures. I think that this is the last book in the series for now so I’m going to have to divert to another genre again after this. I do have a nice science fiction waiting for me…

Well, that’s it.

Have a great week, everyone!!

Please stay safe.

Read a little, knit a little, and garden like your heart can’t live without it.

And wear your mask!!

The Saturday Update: Weeks 44 and 45

Late again, late again. I feel like a character from Alice in Wonderland. This time my excuse is the horrific anxiety associated with 2020 in general, and the presidential election in specific. I’ve been struggling with my scleroderma all week: blue-lipped and short of breath, struggling to walk, fatigued and in pain. Not a good week at all! I stayed in bed this weekend with Hannah and my knitting and I am finally coming out of it tonight. It hasn’t been helping me that the Covid numbers in my state are just skyrocketing to new heights and near by municipalities are clamping down with curfews and other restrictions. Sigh. Thank heavens there is a state-wide mask mandate that applies to stores or I wouldn’t be able to go out at all. I’m now in my 8th month of stay-at-home, and the end is nowhere in sight.

Is it safe to go out now? Nope. Not yet, Hannah!

In other 2020 news I now have email arriving in my inbox in Italian. I don’t read Italian… Who had this on their 2020 Bingo card?

It is snowing like crazy in the mountains this evening and we are finally coming to the end of our wildfires. Yay!!

Knitting

So, while resting up and avoiding the never-ending, anxiety-inducing election results I did get a lot of knitting done. Hannah was an exceptional help as I steadily worked on my shawl for most of a week, and then supervised the blocking for me as I worked with pins and blocking wires. Let me present to you my finished Far Away Dreams shawl (Joji Locatelli).

I am so pleased with how this turned out. Soft and very squishy from the garter stitch, it is perfect to wear on a cold evening or while reading in bed. I am coming to appreciate rectangular shawls as they are shorter in the back so they stay free when you are sitting down and are fairly easy to bunch up around your neck as a scarf under a coat. I ran out of the blue yarn so after some stash diving I decided to use the black MCN yarn for the outer trim, which totally worked as the lace yarn had black and blue flecks in it. So happy with the final result!

Once the shawl was blocking I dived back into my bag of unfinished projects and pulled out a hibernating sweater and those socks that I cast on with Hue Loco yarn a couple of weeks ago. I’ve focused on the sweater this week and the sock is seeing a little action too. Check it out!!

This is Misurina by Caitlin Hunter, a short sleeved cropped sweater knit with fingering yarn on rather large gauge of 20 stitches per inch. I am knitting this on size 6 needles to make this yarn work, and I am so happy with the fabric coming off the needles. I just separated the sleeves from the body of the sweater so things are going to go much faster now. I’m kind of wondering about knitting another one using DK yarn from the stash; I have enough yarn to make one with long sleeves. Hmmm…

I’m also working a little on the socks being knit with Hue Loco yarn (remember… I sort of lost control and went on a spending spree a few weeks ago and got yarn in every color in the new Fall palette. I regret nothing! It is important to have fun and some reckless moments while times are just crazy all around you…). Anyway, this sock is being knit with the Elixir colorway.

Elixir is the colorway next to the Uschitita on the left side of the picture. I’m working more steadily on the socks now as I can’t wait to cast on another color from the buying spree… I’m already dreaming about casting on the blue Uschitita or the purple Hue Loco…

Garden

It has gotten a little chancy for plants that live outside now that the ovenight temperatures dip below freezing so I ordered some shelves online and brought in my favorite miniature roses from outside and set them up in the living room to create an indoor garden. So happy to knit in my garden again in the afternoon sunshine in that room. The perfect spot to read. The favored cat nap spot…

Right now the leaves are falling off the roses as they adjust to the new conditions, but in my experience new leaves will arrive in the coming weeks that are adapted to the living room’s light levels. Yay!!

Reading

I am really in a mystery mood right now. I finished one last week and am working on a historical mystery/suspense book now that I’m enjoying.

Careless Whiskers is a cozy mystery and a fast read. The main character, Charlie, works part time in the college library and solves murders on the side. It’s a fun gig if you can get it. 🙂 He lives in the 3 story house that he inherited from his deceased aunt that is too perfect for words: the house comes with a housekeeper who takes care of everything including the laundry and cooks fabulous southern meals on the side. She even takes care of the cats! To make this even more envy-inducing Charlie has boarders who help out with cat-sitting and provide the meals when Azalea is off on the weekends. There is a giant Maine coon cat and a kitten in the book; both of these animals are perfectly behaved and never chase squirrels or climb the curtains… did I say that this is a cozy mystery? Anyway, there is a theatrical production, players with enormous egos, a death, and a cast of suspects that includes Charlie’s daughter. Charlie eliminates suspects between naps and meals that feature more biscuits then I eat in a year while taking the perfectly-behaved cat almost everywhere he goes. See, a perfect book to read during a difficult week.

I’m about halfway through Conspiracy and greatly enjoying the characters and the story. Okay, Giordano Bruno is one of my favorite characters ever!! A philosopher at odds with the Catholic church and an intrepid solver of murders, he is neck deep in intrigue in Paris this time. The battle for control between religious factions in Paris is pretty intense as Huguenots conspire to place their candidate on the throne which is currently occupied by a Catholic king. Bruno is caught in the middle of all of this as he is forced to work for King Henri, the English ambassador, and several other players on the board. Whew. Things are tough for Bruno who is trying to handle some personal issues of his own (like, maybe he can be restored to a state of grace with the Catholic church and perhaps run down a women he kind of likes…) while getting ambushed by different agents of the factions battling for control, and… he keeps losing his knife! The knife that Sir Francis Drake gave him in the last book! Surely, the knife will be recovered soon… Bruno needs his knife! This is an engaging book to be sure and I can’t wait to get to the end of it because I have another Bruno book waiting for me on the kindle. Yay! Good reading times.

Well, that’s it.

Have a great week, everyone!!

Read a little, knit a little, and garden like your heart can’t live without it.

The Saturday Update: Week 37

Well, this was a week. It seemed much, much longer, but really, it was only a week. My youngest son alerted me that he was battling some type of infection early in the week and the news stations began alerting me that the weather was going to be just wacko for a few days. The forecast was so crazy we made the national news.

Yep. We broke a record for the heat amid warnings of a serious snow storm on the way. The smoke from wildfires in the mountains west of me kept the sky a dirty white color and the sun a sullen red ball as I brought all of the potted plants into the garage for safety before the expected snow and hard freeze. The temperature dropped over 60°F in 24 hours and I had to start up the furnace. I covered the roses to protect them and my son started a second prescription of antibiotics.

Two days later the weather had warmed up again, the snow was gone, and I had carted all of the potted plants back outside for a few more weeks of sunshine. The fires in the mountains were chugging back to life after a few days of respite during the snowstorm, and a text had came from my son that started with, “Don’t panic…” His doctor had sent him to the ER, he was transported to a second hospital where he had emergency surgery and landed in the ICU on a respirator overnight. This afternoon he is off the respirator and sending me text messages again while I make calls to his nursing team. Because of Covid I’m not with him right now and I JUST HATE 2020!!! I think that we are all due a break.

Knitting

This was a week for garter stitch for sure. I did some work on the new Misurina sweater early in the week, but by the end of the week, aware that my son was not getting better on his antibiotics, I was all garter stitch, all the way.

I’m further down the yoke of the Misurina sweater (by Caitlin Hunter) and am happy with how it is going.

The colorwork sections of the yoke are separated by little cables, can you see them there in the grey? I was catching the floats in those cable stitches but you can see them peaking through because of the loose gauge so I am just making really long floats now. I don’t like to do that in general, and I have an idea of catching them later on with some clever stitching with grey yarn if they are a problem, but for now extra long floats are the plan.

Lured into a sense of autumn by the cold and snow I cast on another garter stitch shawl using some Mad Tosh sock yarn in the colorway “Rocky Mountain Colorado” that looks like all the colors of fall.

See what I’m talking about?

This is the Age of Gold shawl by Joji Locatelli.

The large garter stitch shawl is finished off with a lace border in a nice contrast color that can pick up one of the colors in the garter fabric. I kind of want to use a dusty pink that I have, but I’m also tempted to buy a beautiful saffron colored yarn I saw online. So many decisions in a week gone bad! Right now I’m just going to keep knitting and once I’ve got more yarn into the shawl I’ll have a better idea about which color I want to highlight. The trick is to make the colors sparkle instead of toning down the shawl… Ironically, because of the extreme heat followed by a hard freeze, the fall colors in our mountains won’t be that nice this year. Thanks again, 2020!!

Garden

Right before the rain started I went out into the smoky air and took some pictures while moving plants into the safety of the garage.

The stonecrop was just starting to bloom and covered with bees. Poor guys… hope they got home before the rain started.

While I was taking the picture of the bee there was a flash of movement to my left… a bunny in the back yard again!!

The stonecrop came through the storm just fine under the tubs I covered them with and the bees are back. I haven’t spotted the backyard bunny again, but the squirrels are putting on a show in the front yard for Hannah as they race around the front ash tree. As I took the knitting pictures yesterday I spotted this under my Douglas Fir (the only good Doug is a dead Doug… poor maligned tree): an owl pellet!!

The first time I’ve ever spotted one of these in the wild!

A little calling card from one of the great horned owls reminding me about the circle of life.

By the way, the mountain lion has been seen a couple of more times, but not in my backyard, thank heavens!!

Books

The Pull of the Stars was great! Set in Ireland, it is the story of a nurse working in a small ward with pregnant women stricken by influenza during the Great Influenza pandemic in 1918. The characters are rich, the historical setting and issues ring true, and I chomped my way though the book in just a couple of days. Along with the pandemic there are threads about the great war, shell shocked soldiers, the fight for Irish independence, prejudice against women, and the abuse of the “pipeline” that consumed women and children not protected by the sanctity  of marriage in 1918 Catholic Ireland.

The title is a nod to the origin of the word “influenza” which comes from an Italian outbreak in medieval times that was attributed to the influence of the stars.Our heroine nurse records each death and loss as tiny scratches on her watch. A moon for a lost mother. Tiny lines and half moons for stillborns and premature births. Every loss is recorded in time from an illness poorly understood and difficult to control. Kind of haunting, huh.

So I attended the live discussion with the author of this book at Barnes and Noble, and it was great! The author, Emma Donoghue talked about her work and answered questions from viewers that were general ones like “why did you choose this situation” or “how difficult was it to portray medical understandings of a century ago”. It was fine, but I also would have like to just “talk” about the book, the characters, and their actions with the other participants. Nope. No spoilers allowed. There must be a way to have reader chit chat just like the real book club would do. I guess I’ll keep digging and maybe ask B&N if there is a way that can be set up. It would be just another Facebook group, right?

Have a great week, everyone!!

Read a little, knit a little, and garden like your heart can’t live without it.

Be kind to each other and stay safe.

It’s time for me to call the hospital again.

The Saturday Update: Week 32

It is International Cat Day! Hannah is besides herself and has been celebrating all day with the new toys that arrived from Chewy yesterday.

Hannah: it should be International Kitten Day!!

Hannah is wondering if her feet are getting kind of big… yeah, a little bit… I am laying in more kitten food! Anyway, it was a pretty good week for Hannah and I as we knitted, read books, cooked meals for the next week, and basically took it easy. Well, I took it easy; Hannah is getting more athletic and demanding and expects me to play with her and… wait for it… feed her KITTY COOKIES!!! That’s right. She has decided that she likes those kitty cookies after all. Why do I do this to myself. Under no circumstances will I let her drink out of the faucet!

Knitting

I spent a lot of the week knitting and knitting on my Far Away Dreams shawl. I want to be honest here; I started this because I wanted no stress endless garter stitch as I was stressed out and fighting a flare. Now I’m less stressed out,  the flare has receded somewhat to the usual background level of symptoms, and the garter stitch is still going on, and on, and on… There are 231 ridges of garter stitch and I am now close to 200 ridges, which is 400 rows. The end is in sight. Lace is right around the corner. I’m going to get this shawl down in the next week or two…

Then I opened up Ravelry.

Caitlin Hunter published another pattern!!! I love this sweater! I need to start on it right away!!

Look at this! Photo is swiped from Caitlin Hunter’s Misurina page on Ravelry and under her copyright.

Hannah and I headed right up to shop the yarn stash for the yarn. This is what I found:

Won’t this look great?! The gray will be the body of the sweater and the multi (which is the Rocky Mountain Colorado colorway!) is the detail.

I was so excited to start. I planned to wind the yarn almost immediately. I made a fatal error. I succumbed to curiosity (curiosity killed the cat, you know… it can also be damaging to knitting progress…) and clicked on the icon for The Sharon Show by Casapinka. If you don’t know about this already, The Sharon Show is a MKAL (Mystery Knit Along) that is being run by Casapinka’s entitled, snarky, highly opinionated, snax demanding year-old cat. I don’t do MKAL’s at all, as I prefer to know exactly what I’m knitting before I invest all of that yarn. But this is pandemic time and I am sooo isolated right now. I just looked at all of my yarn and I know what I have up there. How can I walk away from interacting with a cat like this?

Sharon is in charge of security at Casapinka. Sharon is bossy and dripping in attitude. Sharon is not above writing up a citation if you violate knitting suggestions. The snark is strong with this one. I bought the pattern.

The pattern came with some info on color choices and a schematic coloring sheet to help you plan the order of your colors. And strong admonishments from Sharon about abiding with guidelines. There might have been some threats about citations…

I got going on playing with the color order and when the first clue dropped yesterday I cast right on and got started. The pattern is so cat snarky and fun!! I am so glad that I am doing this. My first picture of the knitting can be found on my Ravelry project page; I don’t feel that I should post it here because…MYSTERY Knit Along.

I have a lot of knitting going on now. I am going to finish my clue each week as fast as I can and then really concentrate on the shawl so that I can open up the needles I need for that sweater. It’s a plan. I’ll let you know next week how I did.

Garden

The butterfly bush is blooming!!

And a beautiful Japanese Beetle has arrived to snack on the plant.

I hurried that beetle on his way and gave the plant a good spray with soapy plant insecticide. Things are picking up in the garden. I’m looking forward to some butterflies coming by for a visit and snack. Hannah will like that!!

Books

I was a prolific reader as a kid, and very early on I was sucked into science fiction books. Heinlein was a popular author with me and I read Starship Troopers many times over the years. The last two weeks I have been reading a series of military science fiction books that are reminiscent of the books that I grew up with by the author Marko Kloos.

Space going military, giant alien invaders, hot-shot maneuvers, and desperate battles. The plot moves right along and the dialogue is snappy. Perfect.

This actually is the 6th book in the series which I suspect is coming to an end with this volume. I have to be honest; I started the first book because it was included in my Kindle Unlimited package and it included a free audiobook, but once I got into it I was a happy knitter/quilter/flare-fighting invalid and kept getting the next volume in the series as soon as I finished a book.

Have a great week, everyone!!

Read a little, knit a little, and garden like your heart can’t live without it.

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!

2019 Challenges: Crushed Them!

The end of the year is in sight.  I have books that aren’t finished and some projects that still aren’t done, but I’m good with my progress on the three challenges that I set for myself this year. There were three big ones: removing skeins of yarn from my enormous yarn stash, completing and logging knitted projects on Ravelry, and finishing books that I logged on my page at Goodreads. I did really well this year! Here’s the numbers.

Knitting

I set a goal of 30 projects for myself in the Challenge at Ravelry. This was 5 more than last year, and I managed 25 projects the year before, so I was comfortable with the number. Since I was focusing on using up yarn in the stash I really was responsible about logging each project and recording the yarn used and the amounts as best I could. I got lots of things done this year: lots of socks, mitts, sweaters, and some odd items along the way.

Seven sweaters jumped off my needles this year, all of them huge successes; comfy and a joy to wear. Here are some of them (Clockwise from the upper left): Koivua (Caitlin Hunter), Nordiska (Caitlin Hunter), Sturgill (Caitlin Hunter), Daelyn (Isabell Kraemer), and Understated (Joji Locatelli).

I made lots of shawls, socks, fingerless mitts, and even some gnomes this Christmas. The shawl shown here is What the Fade?! by Andrea Mowry and the gnomes are Here We Gnome Again by Sarah Schira.

There were lots of other projects that came off my needles; too many to show here. MacKenzie got a mouse and a blanket. I made cowls, dishcloths, and some thrummed mittens. It was a great year! As of tonight I have completed 48 projects, and the number is actually more as I combined some little projects together in the same Ravelry project page. Knitting goal crushed!

Yarn Destash

I resolved in January to get at least 50 skeins of yarn out of the yarn stash. At my high point in December I had gotten out 75 skeins, but a little trip to my favorite yarn store saw me buying 4 skeins of my most favorite color mohair, more yarn for the cat that I am knitting, and some yarn that I felt I had to grab when I saw it. Nine more skeins walked out of the store with me that day. Whatever. When you deduct the yarn from my total I still got 66 skeins of yarn out of the stash this year. Yarn destash goal crushed!!

Yarn stash.
Not to worry; I still have lots of yarn where those skeins came from in the stash!

Books

Lots of reading happened this year. I began to listen to audiobooks while knitting and once that happened the book count steadily climbed through the year. I set myself a goal of 50 books at Goodreads; as of tonight I have finished 65 books this year. Reading goal crushed!!

I tried to pick my favorite books from the list, but that was too hard. So many 5 star books! Here are some of the ones that really made an impression on me:

Some of my favorites:

    • Where the Crawdads Sing is a magical tale of an isolated young woman, abandoned as a child by almost everyone who should have cared for her, who grows to become a gifted naturalist in her own right. Living with nature in a coastal marsh area, guided by her understanding of the biological systems in the ecosystem around her, she becomes the focus of a murder investigation. Is she the victim of prejudice? Did she do it? Was there actually a crime? You will have to read the book for yourself!
    • Blowout speaks for itself in the title. Hey, I live in Colorado. Oil money is big here, the risks to the population are real, and I remember when we had earthquakes from the fracking operations. Nowadays there is a battle to control how close drilling can be to human habitation in this state; there are a lot of jobs involved, but there was that home that exploded in Firestone, Colorado… Did you know that an early fracking operation in Colorado involved a nuclear explosive that was detonated underground? Yeah. I highly recommend this book.
    • Childen of Ruin speaks to one of my pet peeves in science fiction writing. Why do we always depict aliens as being like us? You know, bipeds who speak and have hands. Beings that think like us. Why should that be? This book goes there using models of intelligence found right here on earth. Octopuses are way smart, but their method of information processing is very different from our own, and they use visual cues in their communication. Portia spiders have object permanence and are canny predators who use a model of problem solving that is formidable and different from our own. Slime molds get together from time to time and act like a multicellular organism… how do they coordinate that trick? Bacteria have more genes in their population than any one member can store; learning is fluid and travels through the population as members swap genes with each other. This book made me think about all these models of intelligence and made me look at my plants and animals with new eyes. One of my jade plants had a slime mold last summer and I put it right outside… best to be safe!
    • The Night Tiger was a huge gift to me. Magic. Dreams. The interface between the spirit world and our own. Tigers who become people, or is it the other way around? It was just a fun, wonderful read with a strong female character in the lead. I loved it.
    • There were so many other 5 stars in my list, but I can’t write about then all. Here’s a list: Ninth House, The Night Fire, The Testaments, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, The Guest Book , The Clockmaker’s Daughter, and The Alice Network all made the list.

So that’s that. I made it through all of my resolved goals and I’m now thinking about new ones. It’s time to take out the spinning wheel and the loom, don’t you think? That, however, will be another post.

A Month of Crutches and Panic Knitting: The Destash Project Update

It really has been a quiet month for me as I’ve been more housebound than usual as I slowly recover from bursitis and tendonitis in one (thank heavens only one!) hip. I’ve been doing my physical therapy, faithfully using my crutch whenever I have to do any prolonged walking (like going to the grocery store), and even started a gym membership so I can start on the reclined bike for the prescribed 5 minute workouts. It helps that it has been cold and I’ve been very motivated to get some projects done. I cleaned up my sewing room and started on some quilts, joined another book club, and began some serious panic knitting to get my yarn destash project back on track after a disastrous September shopping spree.

I entered the month with only 33.5 skeins out of the stash, and my goal is 50 skeins out of the stash before the end of the year. Yikes! I settled into the knitting chair, started an audiobook and began to catch up on knitting projects every afternoon into the evening.

I had two sweaters that were close to completion at the start of the month: the Climb Every Mountain (upper left) and the Koivua (upper right). I finished them up rather quickly (3 skeins used) and then cranked out the Understated sweater (bottom right) in less than two weeks, using up 6 skeins in the effort. Pretty productive!

This week I pulled out several skeins of yarn that were kind of rustic (not superwash), paired then with some mohair that I’ve had stashed forever and make MacKenzie (my very spoiled and demanding cat) a cushy padded sleeping blanket in three days flat while a series of cold fronts dumped a foot of snow and drove temperatures into single digits. It helped that I used big needles and 4 strands of yarn held together for the project.

Another 7.5 skeins of yarn used!!

I also managed to polish off a couple pairs of socks (very simple, mash-up socks that are winter workhorses…) that aren’t all that much to look at, but they used up another couple skeins of yarn.

See what I mean? These are just simple ribbed socks with a sturdy heel.

I have a couple of other projects on the needles at the moment, a cowl and another sweater that will take me through next month, and then before I know it I will be at the end of the year. The destash project kind of hangs over me so I have been knitting steady.

This sweater got started this evening and should really use up most of my Heilo stash. I have 20 skeins of the Heilo, so I have been saving this sweater back as kind of a ringer for the destash project. This is Barn from the book Knits About Winter (Emily Foden). It will be nice and warm for me as winter weather really arrives in the weeks to come.

This evening I totaled up the skeins used this month on my little spreadsheet (yes, I am that big of a geek!) and to my shock the total now is…

52 skeins!!!

I have made it! The destash goal is polished off and I will be way over it when I finish the Barn sweater. Whew! I can now shift attention to getting more sewing done and maybe even will be able to spin a little or do some weaving before Christmas if the hip behaves itself. Maybe bake some cookies. You know, go wild with the relief of having made my goal. Who knew that bursitis, tendonitis, and being on crutches for a few weeks would turn out to be a blessing in disguise? Every cloud does have a silver lining after all!

I will, however, be staying out of the yarn store until the end of the year! No more slips, no more slips, no more slips (chant along with me, people!), no more slips…

May your knitting be good, your books exciting, your chronic illnesses (if you are a member of that club with me) well behaved, and all your New Year’s resolutions met. Have a great weekend, everyone.

All the Caitlins

Alright, I admit it. I have kind of a thing with Caitlin Hunter’s designs right now. I started in May last year with an innocent little Tegna sweater, and then there was another Tegna, and then I decided to try a sweater with some Fair Isle work in it (ahem… I’m talking to you Sipila), and before I knew it I had gone down the Caitlin Hunter rabbit hole. In less then 18 months I have completed 8 different sweaters from this designer, and I’m still in love with every single one of them.

Top row from the left: Tegna, my autumn hydrangea, and Sipila. Middle row from the left: Mums, Koivua, another Tegna, and Nordiska. Bottom row from the left: Sturgill, Marettimo Zweig, and some coneflowers.

A few week ago a good friend from my old knitting group contacted me to let me know that she had a gift for me. What? A gift? This was completely out of the blue, and generated a little guilt on my end as I didn’t have a gift to give back. Since I’ve given up going to my knitting group lately as I’m staying more at home these days to manage my symptoms (more guilt!),  Diane finally popped her gift to me into the mail. Completely mystified I opened the envelope to discover…

A note from Caitlin Hunter herself!!

Diane took a picture of Caitlin writing the note!

Best gift ever!  Diane, thank you so much!! Opening that envelope was a joyful as finishing off one of these sweaters and popping it on for the first time. I am so happy and grateful that you thought of me.

I have one more Caitlin Hunter sweater in my queue that I’m hoping to get done before the end of the year, a Soldotna Crop sweater that I will be making a little longer than crop. I have a bunch of homespun yarns that are just chomping to be made into a Soldotna. I know, I am a little out of control, but I’m having a lot of fun, so don’t judge me. 🙂 If I manage to make my yarn destash goals this year it will be partly due to Caitlin’s compelling sweater designs, so this is a good thing, right?

It’s going to cool down this weekend so I’m totally going to rock one of these sweaters. Have a great (knitting) weekend everyone.

Houston, We have a Koivua…

It’s here, it’s here, it’s here! I have been listening to some amazing science fiction books and knitting away thinking about space and different forms of learning and intelligence. This is a sweater that will be forever linked with evolution, creativity, space ships, and human struggle, hence the title of this post. I am please to announce the arrival of my Koivua, a sweater that has been an adventure from start to finish. Yep, this has been a journey, but I feel that I really learned a lot along the way. Before I go into all of the detail of this misadventure I guess I’d better show off the final product.  Ta-daa… and here’s….Koivua!!

Hot off the knitting needles, here is my finished Koivua.

I fussed and worried a lot about the yarns that I used for this sweater, and finally bought some lovely DK weight natural yarn (Scout by Kelbourne Woolens) to go with my beautiful DK weight superwash yarn from Stitch Together Studio.

The Scout yarn is not superwash and the rose colored yarn is. NOT a problem, right? Houston, we have a PROBLEM!!

After looking at the two yarns carefully I decided to knit with the cream yarn in my right hand and the rose superwash yarn in my left. I loved the rose and wanted it to show well in the sweater. Since the cream was fluffier I was pretty sure I would get a balanced fabric after blocking the Fair Isle knitted colorwork.

Not that balanced after all. The cream yarn is just getting eaten alive by the rose that seems to be much bulkier after blocking. Maybe it can’t compete with the superwash, but it didn’t emerge the way I expected it to after blocking. Crap!! I should have done a swatch trying out both versions of handling the yarn. I love the vein details in the leaves, but you’d never know they were there with this pathetic showing of the cream yarn. 

Now that the sweater is done I am very sad that I didn’t knit it with the white in my left hand, but such is life. I wanted the rose to be dominant, and it is doing that, so I should focus on that. Lesson learned. Let’s move on to the bottom of the sweater where I had more of a success.

Isn’t this corrugated ribbing the best?!

I added a repeat of the textured block at the bottom of the sweater to get some more length and discovered that it really wanted to blouse out. The ribbing at the top of the sweater drew in quite a bit, so I decided to add corrugated ribbing to balance the colors in the sweater and to keep the drape of the sweater open. This was a huge win!! Since I knew that an I-cord bind off was going to be used on the sleeves I just went ahead and added one here to put more weight at the hem. Cool. This kind of makes up for the wimpy veins on the leaves. On to the sleeves!

A sleeve to be proud of!

The original design as charted by the author (Caitlin Hunter) created belled sleeves by increasing the stitch count at the end of the first colorwork section and again at the top of the second colorwork section. I counted stitches, did some math, decreased 2 stitches after finishing the first colorwork block, redistributed my stitch markers and I now had decreased the sleeve from 12 repeats of the pattern to 10 repeats. Yay! By the end of the sleeve I had chopped 16 stitches out of the stitch count, which is still kind of full, but not as belled as originally written. I had to make some adjustments as I did the decreases at the bottom of the sleeve, but managed to get the stitches back to the correct number before the final I-cord bind off. Pretty good, huh!

Once I had the sweater all blocked and finished I decided that I wanted some color right at the top of the neck to balance everything and to give it that last little shot of the rose yarn that I loved so much. Yep. I picked up stitches around the neck and added an I-cord bind off to complete the look.

The I-cord actually helped put the ribbing at the neck down around my shoulders as it wanted to try to do a little turtleneck action. The I-cord put a stop to that and gave me the color balance that I wanted in the sweater. It is also stretchy enough to allow the sweater to be easily pulled over my head. Win!

The only thing that I have failed to mention is the heart-stopping worry that I had that perhaps the rose yarn might run a little when I blocked the sweater. I had already made a sweater from this yarn and didn’t remember any problems, but still, I worried.

I did make a swatch to test this. No problems!! Notice that the cream seems slightly larger than the rose yarn. Why is my Fair Isle misbehaving? So unexpected and unfair. Okay, I’m moving on now….

I should mention that it is not a good plan to drink red colored vitamin water while knitting a white sweater. Sometimes, I am stupid. There is a tiny amount of additional pink in places where it shouldn’t be, but I’m not going to show that off, and you really don’t need to see it. Just remember this little gem of good advice and don’t be stupid like me…

So that’s it. My Koivua is done, it makes me happy to look at it and I can’t wait for colder weather to arrive so I can show it off. Yay. Meanwhile I am battling MacKenzie for control of the sweater and dreaming of a new project to cast on. I think that it is time for dark blue yarn, don’t you?

Because bossy cats need their knitting to sleep on.

If you would like to see my Ravelry notes on this project after all of this you can find them here. If you are wondering about the books that I’ve been reading/listening to they are the two book set by Adrian Tchaikovsky called Children of Time and Children of Ruin. I’m trying to think of how to write about these two books…

MacKenzie Speaks: A Sleeve and a Sock

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

To you see how hard I am working?

I have been really helping the Mother of Cats with her knitting this week. Look at how carefully I am inspecting this sock that she is working on. We have been listening to an audiobook every evening while she stitches away on the sock, with lots of breaks to give me attention, of course. I think that she would get bored and fall asleep if I didn’t keep standing on her and head butting her work. It is a hard job, but someone needs to do it.

See how much progress she has made? This is what you get when you have an attention-to-detail cat helping you out.

The Mother of Cats is calling this another Mash-Up sock that combines elements of three other socks that she has made in the past. Whatever. Like I would remember details like that?! What I do remember is that I sent her to the store to buy me tuna flavored cookies and she came back with some kind of substandard chicken flavored ones. This is just typical of the Mother of Cats. So thoughtless. I don’t know why I exhaust myself helping her when she doesn’t treat me the way she should…

Especially when I helped her knit this sleeve this week too!!

I can’t believe how exhausting all this knitting supervision has been. Luckily the sweater is now so big the Mother of Cats can’t keep me off of it any longer. Which is pretty nice since I need a nice place to nap after all of this work.

The Mother of Cats needs to share her things more often!!

Last night the Mother of Cats started ANOTHER SWEATER before she was done with this one. Something about the second sleeve syndrome… Whatever. I think that she just wanted to let me nap a little longer. I deserve it after all. Maybe the Mother of Cats does think a little about my needs after all.

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • The sweater is a Koivua by Caitlin Hunter. My project notes are here. I made modifications to the sleeve to make it less bell shaped at the bottom and am pretty happy with how it came out. I put the details into my project notes if you want to see what I did.
  • Oh, yeah. That sock is a total mashup masterpiece. The top is the edging from the Geology socks. The ribbing is kind of an Emily’s Favorite socks deal, and the garter stitch heel and toe are inspired by the Om Shanti Bed Socks.
  • Yep. I did cast on another sweater last night. I also had to made a new set of stitch markers to use with it because a) they had to all be different from each other, and, b) they had to coordinate with the sweater.  What?! Doesn’t everyone do this? There’s no problem here, people. There is, however, another post brewing…
  • The book that MacKenzie and I are listening to is A Better Man by Louise Penny. I love these books!!

Have a great (knitting) weekend, everyone!