Knitting Jonesy: Yarns and Swatching

This is Jonesy.

Jonesy is my son’s kitten; in this photo he is 5 months old.

Once again I am organizing the yarns to knit up a cat using the pattern by Claire Garland. Jonesy is interesting with his white chin, cream paws and tail tip, and of course, all of those stripes. Okay, I may have something of a cat knitting problem, but I’m not defensive or anything. I’m kind of compelled by the creative and technical challenge of making the mixtures of yarns create a believable, if not exact, copy of the cat. Also, I’m having fun!

So I collected these yarns with the conviction that they were a good start to make knitted Jonesy.

I planned to use the fingering yarn for the base throughout the cat and the stripes and different shades would be created by the mohair blends. When I knit MacKnitzie I used black mohair to create the stripes; when the cat was done the black was greatly toned down by the mohair and it was kind of grey. I figured that the same effect would tone down that dark cedar colored mohair at the top of the picture when I knit it in for stripes.

I learned my lesson a couple of cats ago. Always knit swatches with different combinations of yarn to use in planning the cat.

I kind of feel like that dark cedar is a little too dark. Wow. Those stripes really will stand out and are much darker then they appear in the photo. I kind of want something more like dark caramel to use. I looked everywhere online and in local stores hunting for the shade I had in my mind.

Nope. Nope, nope, nope. I had this color in my mind and nothing else was going to satisfy me. All right then; I have acid dyes and I have skills. I decided to try to create the color in my dye crockpot!!

I played around with some dyes on white wool I had lurking in the garage, and after those results I settled on this combination of caramel with some shots of orange.

I re-skeined a ball of mohair/silk yarn using my trusty niddy-noddy and then added it to a warmed crockpot with a glug white vinegar. I sprinkled the dry dye powder onto the top of the yarn, put the lid back onto the crockpot, and then walked away for an hour. (By the way, this crockpot is used only for dyeing! I keep everything that I use for dyeing in isolation in the garage so it can’t get mixed in with cooking utensils and pots.)

Ta-daa!! The dye exhausted faster then I expected; after an hour on high heat it was over.

The yarn after the first dye operation was really close to what I wanted, but when I got it out of the pot I found that there were several chunks of white yarn underneath. Nope! Time to over-dye. I dissolved about 1/8 teaspoon of caramel dye to the water in the pot, added another glug of vinegar and put the yarn back in. After another hour of high heat in the crockpot the dye had struck and I was done.

This is what I ended up with.

I was happy with this yarn… doesn’t it look like it will produce stripes more like Jonesy? More swatching!!

I now have more options to use in the cat. The very top combination really looks like Jonesy’s stripes! I don’t want to cast on until I see Jonesy again as he is changing quickly while he grows (a dark stripe just appeared down his tail!), but I really feel like I have the yarns I need to knit him up.
Planning the face is going to be interesting… how will I get in those freckles?! I used 5 different combinations of yarns on MacKnitzie’s face and chin, which really helped create the illusion of a real cat.

Whew. Time to put the Jonesy project aside and to go back to my sweater knitting. I also have a second sock to cast on and get going. Did I mention that it is snowing outside again? Oh yeah, something else happened today…

The monster orchid has opened a bloom!!

MacKenzie Speaks: MacKnitzie takes a road trip.

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Remember these yarns that were used to knit my look-alike friend?

Well, I’ve been hanging out with the knitted friend all week while it has been snowing outside. He is almost as good as a blankie!! The Mother of Cats had some trouble naming my knitted buddy… she got lots of suggestions from other bloggers (whatever that is… do they have cookies?) like Matheson, and Ross, and even Fuzzy, but when one of her blogging buddies suggested “MacKnitzie” that was the name!!

Anyway, the Mother of Cats took MacKnitzie with her when she went on a road trip to her son’s place this weekend. She left me all alone!! Why does the Mother of Cats do these things, and why did she have to take MacKnitzie with her? You should see all of the things that MacKnitzie did while I was home all alone without anyone to groom my fur or give me cookies for my afternoon snack. The Mother of Cats needs to have better priorities!!

MacKnitzie got to sleep on a strange cat pillar…
And he played with the new kitten that belongs to the Mother of Cats’ son.
Okay, I heard from MacKnitzie that the kitten beat him up, bunny kicked him, and chewed on his paw. It was just awful! How could the Mother of Cats let this happen to him. When it was over he rested with the kitten’s toy rat until he recovered.
Then he took a nap with the grown up cat that lives there.

Whew. It was really hard to get through the two days without MacKnitzie!! I can’t believe that the Mother of Cats separated us like that! What was she thinking about? Thank goodness she brought him home safe again for me to take naps with last night.

Because MacKnitzie is the best little napping buddy a cat could have!

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • I’m collecting all of the yarns to make two more cats. The first will be the orange kitten, and then I have to figure out how to knit a tuxedo Maine coon cat… lots and lots of fluffy fur going on!!
See what I mean?
  • I took all of the collected yarns up to my son’s place this weekend along with the knitted cat so he could give me feedback on the yarns that I was thinking of using.
  • I got such great ideas for names for the knitted cat! My sister called him Fuzzy, which he certainly is. Highlandhuffalump suggested the clan name Matheson, which I really liked, and then Catherine mentioned Ross for a name, which was also pretty darn appealing. When mildlygranola suggested “MacKnitzie” it was over: the knitted cat absolutely decided that it wanted to be named MacKnitzie!! Thank you all for the help.
  • The knitted cat is the pattern Cat by Claire Garland. MacKnitzie’s project page is here.

Blasting Through the Doldrums

It is snowing outside tonight. Again. After unbelievable warm days in the 60’s and 70’s the week before last Colorado plunged into frigid temperatures and snow overnight last Sunday. Then the temperatures went subzero and it snowed again. And again. We have already passed the average snow totals for the month, my snow shovel is getting worn out and MacKenzie is downright disgusted.

But indoors my favorite yellow-gold rose bush is blooming again. Take that snowy days!!

During all of this I had a very busy week. I knitted, read, rushed to appointments, and pretty much wore myself out. I even cooked some great meals that were stashed to eat for the upcoming week! By Saturday night I had finished knitting the MacKenzie cat. At the same time I finished the series that I was binge watching on Netflix (Anne with an “E”), and polished off my audiobook, The Giver of Stars. Flush with success I blogged about my week Saturday evening.

And woke up yesterday totally at a loss. What am I supposed to do with myself now? I was in the doldrums for sure… between knitting projects, between books, between Netflix shows, between snowstorms… really struggling to get myself restarted. Ugh. I spent way too much time wandering around on the internet looking at books and yarn.

I also spent some time pruning roses and cleaning up the plants in the sewing room. The rose gold orchid continues to flourish and another bloom should open in the next few days.

By the evening , after grocery shopping and shoveling MORE snow, I had pulled out some yarn, made some decisions, bought a new pattern, and slowly settled into a new audiobook. Today I wound yarn, kitted up my new projects, and began to cast on. I even found a new show to bingewatch (Counterpart on Amazon Prime)

I decided to make another V-Neck Boxy sweater, but I have an idea to make some type of Fair Isle knitted pattern on the lower sleeves. Don’t you like this yarn?

Both of the yarns were specials at my LYS. The Baah Yarn La Jolla is the January 2020 yarn, and the plum is the February 2020 yarn from Chasing Rabbits. I bought them both the minute I saw them because… well… I deserve them!!!

If I’m going to start a new sweater, why not 2? Remember this yarn that I agonized over last month? I was going to make a Daydreamer out of it, but my hands are not happy at the moment and that sweater has a lot of stitch manipulation going on, so I decided to shift to something simpler. Lucky for me Joji Locatelli just published the very sweater I need right now, the Pebble Tunic.

I had already made a knitted stockinette swatch with the two yarns held together, so I pulled that out, measured the gauge, and then made another with a larger needle. Bam! I am almost exactly at gauge, the fabric will be light, fluffy and warm, and the sweater is perfect for my struggling hands to work on right now. I bought the pattern last night and cast on. Take that winter weather!!

Oh, yes. Back to the binge watch show. Counterpart is on Amazon Prime and I went right down that rabbit hole as soon as I started watching it. Perfect show to watch while knitting a simple stockinette tunic. I’m already through all of the shoulder shaping and into mindless stockinette for the next 8″. Good show, mindless knitting: perfect match.

But wait, there is more! I need to make another cat!!

This is my son’s 5 month old kitten named Jonesy. What a cutey, right? How can I not knit this cat?
Behold! The yarn to knit Jonesy. I wound up yarn and kitted this project today too. In the days to come I’ll start producing some swatches.

Late last night I settled on an audiobook to listen to while falling asleep. Here it is, and so far it is a good one. Perfect for end of the day sock knitting.

I’m not to far into this book, but it is holding my attention for sure.

So it took a day for the reset and to cast on again, but I am now through the doldrums and energized with projects and goals. What a relief. I’m also considering some quilting and maybe spinning some yarn.

Bye, doldrums.

I’m off to shovel some more snow.

The Saturday Update: Week 6

Six weeks? How can that be? The weeks are just flying by. I am definitely over my flu now and actually, I am feeling pretty darn good. I’ve been really busy this week and I have so much to share and talk about I’m wondering how much I should put into this update post and how much should be blown out into a post of its own. Hmm… I don’t want to write a Saturday post that pretty much talks your ear off, but I have really been busy this week and I have a lot that I’ve been thinking about. Let’s see how this shakes out while I write.

Knitting

Let’s start out with the best part of the week: Knitted MacKenzie is done!!!

Look at this face!!

This is my second attempt to knit Cat by Claire Garland, and this time I knitted lots of swatches combining different combinations of mohair with the base yarns before I started the knitted cat. Once I had the swatches done I had a better idea of how to create more contrast and interest in the final product, and I am much happier with this cat.

This time I knitted in the stripes while working the cat, and then added some embroidered detail afterwards to the face and head.
MacKenzie is now hanging out with his doppelganger buddy. What should I name him?

I started the Ravelry project page with the idea that I would record all of the yarn combinations while making this little guy, but the truth is I just kept making up things as I went along by pulling yarn out of my project bin, looking at my swatches, checking MacKenzie’s coat, and then making some leaps of faith. See, this could be a whole post if I explained all the strategies and decisions. In the meantime, feel free to check out my Ravelry page if you’d like.

Garden

The orchids are really cranking up now. The buds are getting fat and some major bloom outbreaks are right around the corner.

Those buds are growing at an exciting pace now. I think that the plants liked their fertilizer last week!

Do you see the new rose-gold bloom? My most favorite color in the orchid world! I’m so excited to have those other buds open up. The purple orchid put out some more blooms and the white one is just outdoing itself in the kitchen. Meanwhile, I have pulled the monster orchid out from under the grow lights and have put a new grow floodlight on it.

See, this orchid is just a monster!

This orchid is still in the original pot; I don’t want to mess with it while it is growing at such a clip! It is now over 2 feet tall and has been churning out new leaves and air roots steadily since I brought it home. I keep it suspended on pebbles above water in this large saucer and I suspect that helps it too. It has two stems growing with flower buds… please, please be rose gold blooms!!! I wonder how to get these plants to make seeds? Hmmm… do I just use a paintbrush to transfer pollen? What if I cross pollinate? Internet, here I come!!

Oh, yeah. I killed the poor innocent cyclamen by overwatering it, but the lantana is just covered in blooms. My sewing room is downright cheerful these days.
Books

I raced through a print book over the weekend and then listened to an audiobook while finishing up the knitted cat. Okay, it took me 2 days to do all the finishing work on the cat, but it was so worth the time and this audiobook made the hours fly by.

I did a little sock knitting this week while listening to The Giver of Stars. Such good books!!

I read Dear Edward for my book club this month; I belong to a wonderful group at Barnes & Noble and I treaure our discussions each month. I would never have chosen this book on my own as I am avoiding books about people trapped in situations that they can’t escape from, (hello, scleroderma patient here…), but I sucked it up and read the book to be a good book club member. Wow! Just wow!! We talked for the entire hour about the book: everyone really liked it! We were compelled to finish the book as soon as we started it, thought and thought about the people in this story, and even as I write this I am still considering the events and futures for our main characters. This book, and book clubs in general, could also be a post on its own. I rarely give books 5 stars when I review them at Goodreads, but this one was totally 5 stars!

So, what is Dear Edward about? A plane crash that leaves a single survivor. Exactly the type of book that I would normally avoid, but I am so glad I read it. The aftermath of this horrific event for the single survivor, a 12 year old boy, is the meat of the book; his unwanted celebrity status, the consequences of the pressure this puts on him and other people around him in his life, the compulsion that other people affected by the crash have to connect to him, and the eventual emergence from loss and grief to a place of peace, transformation, and purpose in everyone’s lives.

Then there was The Giver of Stars. Librarians on horseback serving the communities in Appalachian Kentucky: moonshiners, coal miners, poverty, economic inequlity, and struggling families cut off from society in their far flung mountain cabins. We are introduced to women struggling for equality in a society that has firm expectations for their demeanor/place, coal miners struggling to organize for better work conditions, corrupt and powerful men who manipulate situations to their advantage, and a murder trial. It was a good read and great knitting entertainment.

MacKenzie Speaks: Look!!

Hi I’m MacKenzie.

The Mother of Cats is making a lot of progress on my knitted buddy.

It’s really, really cold outside but it is okay because the Mother of Cats is letting me sleep with my new knitted brother. He is still awfully flat and has lots of pins and knitting needles attached, but he is still warm and furry. The Mother of Cats has been very mean about sharing the new knitted kitty with me, but tonight she finally did the right thing and left him in my kitty bed for the night. Isn’t he a handsome guy? That’s because he looks a lot like me!!

Tomorrow she says she will finish knitting the tummy of the cat and then it will be time to start stuffing and sewing my new buddy up. Yay! Maybe the Mother of Cats isn’t too bad after all…

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • This knitted cat is Cat by Claire Garland.
  • MacKenzie is still struggling with several health issues and is getting medicine twice a day; he hates it but did better this week. He deserves a knitted buddy, don’t you think?

The Saturday Update: Week 5

I’m back up on my feet again (so long, flu!) and getting stuff done. I managed to run errands, went back to Kaiser for MORE testing, took MacKenzie to the vet again, and managed to cook some yummy meals to set me up for the week. Oh, yeah, I am back to knitting, too.

Knitting
I’m working on the knitted version of MacKenzie again and I can’t tell you how thrilled MacKenzie is with my progress!
I’ve completed the upper body knitting and I’m ready to put on the ears and the eyes. I’m still debating how to create the furry brown belly of the knitted cat along with the white chin. These creative decisions take a while.
See what I’m talking about? MacKenzie’s belly is brownish and has longer fur then on his back. Somehow I want to create this with the mohair I already have on hand…

My favorite yarn store posted a picture on Facebook showing off the new February yarns… there is a plum that I want desperately and some red looks pretty darn good too. Beautiful yarn. Must have it now!! Tomorrow it will snow, so I should have my yarn, right?!!

Garden

The orchids continue to grow their flower stems and some of the buds are starting to look promising. I gave everyone a nice misting and fertilizer this week, so I am counting on them to produce some bloomy fabulousness.

The little white orchid plant is outdoing itself! I’m amazed at how many stems and blooms this little plant is producing. I moved it into the kitchen for the western light and it gets misted almost every day along with the African violet.
Back in the sewing room one of the other orchids has finally opened up a bud. This plant, the most sickly appearing of my orchids, is bravely producing small purple blooms.

One of the other orchid plants is a monster and I need to move it into a better location as the stems carrying the flower buds are almost into the grow lights. I think that this plant will produce rose gold blooms… can’t wait to see them! Next week I will get up some pictures of this plant.

Books
I knitted the cat while listening to the Dutch House. Perfect match!

This week was an audible book one as I listened to Tom Hanks perform the Dutch House. This was a good book, but not a great one. There is this fabulous house that captures, alters, and anchors the lives of generations of occupants. The people leave the house, but they never really ever get away, and even though the story sort of just goes on and on, I was completely captured and my days were filled with knitting the cat and listening to Tom Hanks tell about the families captured by the house.

The Saturday Update: Week 3

It was a really busy week for me: doctor’s appointments and testing, a meeting of my book club, a broken tooth, and… wait for it… hurricane force winds outside! I am so glad for my new heater and fence, people. I’ve been busy this week but focused mostly on small, portable projects as that was the kind of week I had.

Knitting

I am enjoying my new Snowshoe socks so much that I cast on another pair early in the week. The trick in these thick, squishy socks is that you can pair a soft 100% merino yarn with a hardy sock yarn that packs a good percentage of nylon. Having discovered how compelling the marled fabric is when you knit two such yarns together is, I dug through the stash looking for another pair to yarns to put together.

The purple yarn is Rockshelter Sock from Meadowcraft Dyeworks. I love the color, but this yarn didn’t work out in the project that I originally bought it for. The grey multi (Western Sky Knits Smooth Sock) was also bought for an abandoned project, but with its 25% nylon and muted flashes of color it was perfect! Together these yarns made a sock that I just loved!
These socks just flew off my needles and I’m wearing them right now as I write this post. My project notes on Ravelry are here.

The first night after I finished the purple marled socks I went to bed wearing them and thought about other possible pairings between yarns in my stash. One soft yarn, one tough. Two colors that will go great together. Ideally, yarns that are just hanging out in the stash wondering what to do with themselves…

The single ply merino yarn (Black Elephant Yarns) was bought years ago as an extra insurance skein when I was knitting a shawl. I did need some of the yarn in this skein, but only a small portion. What ever should I do with the remaining yarn? The red sparkly yarn was a Christmas-time special produced for my favorite LYS by Chasing Rabbits Fiber Co. and is nylon rich. Bam! Another pairing was born and I cast on.  My Ravelry project notes are here.

I’ve also been making some progress on knitting MacKenzie, but slowly as I need to work off the computer and it is the kind of project that needs a block of time and focused attention. Still, there is a cat emerging on my needles.

I’m currently using three mohair yarns and a grey/black fingering yarn to create his back with stripes. I am just beyond his front shoulders at the moment. With all of the mohair he is one soft, furry boy!
Garden

Things are happening in my little indoor garden.

Curses!! There has been a reemergence of mildew on one of the miniature rose bushes…
All of the miniature roses were treated with Neem oil as soon as I saw the mildew. By the end of the week they had appeared to be recovered and the bush with the original infestation was getting ready to bloom. Note to self: buy more Neem oil!
The other big news is that the Amaryllis buds from the bulbs that my sister sent me for Christmas are getting ready to burst open. Yay!! The only orchid that is currently blooming is the white one, but some of the others are gtting pretty close.
Books
I finished up a couple of books this week while I was knitting away on the socks. Doesn’t this one have a beautiful cover?

For some reason that I simply can’t understand every single book I pick up lately is about something that I don’t want to deal with at the moment. This one, which is about a life-long pairing between a cello and a gifted magician, seemed intriguing: there is a curse, a love interest, loss, grief, redemption and recovery. Sounds good, huh? There is also alcoholism, sudden death, suicide, and heart wrenching betrayals, too. Faced with a life of constant struggle as I deal with my chronic illnesses, I am personally calling a moratorium on books like this for awhile. I want some happy, fluffy books for awhile. Or at the very least, people not in the grips of self-destructive behaviors, mental illness, and bleak futures. I’m calling a pause on sociopaths and serial killers, too!

This is absolutely not a happy, fluffy book, but it was what I needed this week.

I’m a big science fiction geek. This book, the 20th in a series that I have been reading over 2 decades, is like the next installment in a Greek drama. The action is really slow: the book unpacks the events of a few momentous days and explores in minute detail the political, social, and familial events as our hero embarks on a diplomatic mission with the aliens that he serves as mediator/facilitator/interpreter for as they attempt to create an alliance that will consolidate power in a difficult region of the planet. It’s very formal. There is lots of analysis and consideration of intent in every action and decision. Forms, and the correct numbers, must be maintained at all times. Everything, and I do mean everything, is fraught with meaning. I love this series and can’t wait to get my hands on the next installment, but I know that it isn’t for everyone.