Final Push Towards Christmas: Knitted Cat and Plants

Almost all of my gifts are made and in the mail on their way to their new homes. It is a huge relief to have them out the door, but I still can’t show them off until next week. Gee, it’s hard to blog when I’m spending most of my time on the Christmas making drive but I can’t show things off. Would you like to see some of my plants?

After months of care the African violet suddenly decided to bloom! About time, little guy, I was almost ready to give up on you…
Five of my six orchid plants are getting ready to bloom this season too. I’ve been feeding these orchids every month, spraying them every few days to keep the humidity high, and subjected them to big swings in temperature early in the fall in an effort to encourage blooming. 
One is putting up four blooming stems! I think that this plant will produce white blooms, but the others will have purple and orange/gold blooms. How cheerful my sewing room will be this winter.
Even one of the roses that I brought indoors for the winter has started blooming this week!

There is one big knitted gift that I can show off as I’m working on it in coolaboration with the recipient.

It’s a cat!

This knitted cat is a gift for my younger son whose cat Daxter died unexpectedly from an undetected cancer last September.

Daxter with his Christmas mouse last year. Daxter was a wonderful companion, extremely expressive and very bonded to my son. Truely an extraordinary cat! The loss has been great and there is a hole in the apartment where he used to sleep. 

Ironically, I had bought some of the yarn for the knitted cat just days before Daxter’s sudden death. Shocked at the sudden turn of events, I put the yarn away for awhile, but finally took it back out two weeks ago and got started on the knitted cat as a Christmas gift for my son. It’s bittersweet for sure, but it feels good to create something that honors Daxter and acknowledges the loss.

This knitted cat is going to be almost life sized!! There is a hole in the face where the ear is going to be. MacKenzie reluctantly agreed to model the knitted cat so you get an idea of how it will look later with the ears on. The knitted fabric is created with three strands of yarn held together; I’m working with a silk-mohair lace yarn, a silk-alpaca lace yarn, and a fingering wool. The different colors in the cat are created by changing one or more strands of yarn as I work.
You can see how big this cat is going to be.

I’m working like crazy on the cat now and I plan to get it done in time for Christmas. The cat’s eyes are ordered and on their way from China; hopefully they will get here in time. I have started to add some stripes and will knit in others. I can’t wait to get the ears on!! I am so impressed with the shaping and detail in this project, and I also have to say that the pattern is very straight-forward and has lots of great picture and video support. If you would like to create your own cat the pattern is Cat by Claire Garland.

Oh yeah. There is a new kitten in my son’s apartment. I hope that he likes this knitted cat too.

This is Jonesy.

MacKenzie Speaks: My Blankie, My Blankie!!

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Do you see this nice yarn that I am rolling around in? Something wonderful has happened this week!

Well, actually, something wonderful happened this week because things have gotten just awful outside. I blame the Mother of Cats totally for what has happened this week.

Look at this! Almost a foot of this stuff is spread out across MY YARD and it is so cold I can’t even put my paw into it for more than a second!

That’s right. It started snowing three days ago and the cold and the snow just kept on coming day after day after day…

If the Mother of Cats really cared about me she would put a stop to this white madness, but NOPE! she did not. Monday morning she did go digging into the yarn stash and found some yarns that are the kind that I like a lot.

Don’t these yarns look nice and warm?
The Mother of Cats decided that it was an emergency to make me a cat blanket, so she started knitting with all four of the yarns held together at the same time.
Hey! This knitted stuff is really nice and warm. I can use my claws on it all I want and it won’t fall apart! The Mother of Cats is really acting nice. I think that she is feeling guilty about all of that cold white stuff.

Since the Mother of Cats was making some knitted stuff that was truly excellent to sleep on I decided to hand out with her all day yesterday while she worked. Okay, it was really cold out in the garage, and there was no way I could frolic around outside, so I had to stay in the house. Of course I stayed with her and helped her knit all day.

Don’t you think that these yarns look nice with my fur?

Because the Mother of Cats was holding 4 strands of yarn at the same time the knitting went really fast. I mean, she must have gotten a couple of inches done between breaks for cookies. I got lots of pets and I held all of the balls of yarn while she worked, and she gave me all of the extra balls to take care of too. The Mother of Cats is so lucky that she has me to help her.

Look at how nice and big this blanket is! It is a perfect sleeping pad for me on the bed.
She even put tassels on the blankie!! I love tassels!

Now I have a blankie to sleep on while the Mother of Cats does stupid stuff like cooking and sewing. I just love my blankie. Yay! For once the Mother of Cats has put my needs first, but it certainly took her a long time to pay attention to how badly I needed this blankie.

I’m such a good boy!

Can I have some cookies now? Can I have them served on my blankie?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

The finished blanket is really warm, thick and sturdy. It should be able to standup to claws and chomps for a long time.
  • The finished blanket is 3 feet long from point to point, and fits nicely on the bed, chairs, and of course the floor. MacKenzie prefers to have his blankie on the bed, of course! My project notes for this blanket are here.
  • MacKenzie is visibly struggling in the cold and I am sure that he has some type of arthritis. I’m hoping that the warm cushy wool is comforting on old bones; it is in weather like this that I remember that he is a 16 year old cat.
  • I also did the little bit of finishing on my last sweater and got a not-great photo of it since I had to stay indoors. Ta-daa! Here is my Understated Sweater (Joji Locatelli).
I am considering making the sleeves wrist length, but am test driving the shorter version for a few weeks. I am making matching socks and may have enough yarn left over to make wrist warmers that will extend the warmth on my arms on cold days. I love the endless individuality that knitting my own stuff gives me.
  • My project notes for the Understated Sweater are here.
  • MacKenzie is not kidding about the cold. We broke a record here in the Denver area this morning with a new low of 3°F this morning. Brrr!
  • The blankie ate up 7 skeins of yarn! The destash project is looking good!

 

 

MacKenzie Speaks: Massive Slip and Panic Knitting

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Do you see this knitting that I’m trying to get a claw into? There is a story about this hunk of wooly goodness…

The Mother of Cats has been staying indoors for the last couple of weeks avoiding the cold and babying her ill behaved hip, knitting like crazy on ANOTHER sweater. It is almost like she is on fire to get lots of knitting done. Whatever could have set her off?

The Mother of Cats had a MAJOR SLIP and bought all of this yarn last month for her birthday. She needs to get 50 skeins of yarn out of the stash and she did something like this?!!

Bad Mother of Cats. How could she be so undisciplined and go shopping for yarn for herself? She needs to buy stuff for me!!! More cookies! Another little cat for me to chase around!! A new blankie for me to sleep on. She is so thoughtless and self-absorbed.

Of course, as soon as she got this yarn home she began to knit even faster than ever and started neglecting me more then she should. She never lets me go outside anymore, and I am positive that I haven’t been getting as many cookies as I used to. Where are my new toys? I can hardly cope with this lack of attention.

She did leave one skein unwound until the very end of the knitting so I could sleep with it. Do you like how this yarn looks with my fur? This is Chasing Rabbits Merinolux DK yarn in the colorway Colorful September. 
The Mother of Cats has been really selfish about sharing her knitting with me…
But when you get down to it the Mother of Cats really is no match for me. I try to keep a paw on the knitting at all times.

The Mother of Cats finished the sweater today and then washed it (WHY does she do these things? That nice yarn absolutely did not deserve to be dumped into water in the sink! I watched it closely and it never did anything that would warrant just extreme measures…).

But then the Mother of Cats spread the wet sweater out to dry on towels on the floor. Oh. I really like wet wool. Maybe the Mother of Cats did this for me. Maybe she does think about me a little bit.

Would you believe that the Mother of Cats put another layer of towels on top of the sweater so I couldn’t got to the wet wool? WHY DOES SHE DO THESE THINGS? Now we need to wait another day or two before we can take the picture of the finished sweater. Oh wait… maybe we will get to go outside to do that!! Things may be looking up.

I love to go outside.

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • I have been making really good progress on the yarn destash project, and by the end of September I had used up or removed 49 skeins from the stash. Feeling really confident on my ability to make the 50 skein goal I went wild and bought that fabulous navy/blue/green yarn from Chasing Rabbits.
  • I also decided to make this cat for a Christmas present and bought some yarn for that too…
  • I needed an assortment of mohair and alpaca yarns to build the buff tabby cat that I want to knit. Because the designer combined three yarns together to create the texture of the cat’s fur I needed several skeins, but the knitting will consume them fairly quickly because… knit three strands at once. I also bought some dark brown and black yarns because… MacKenzie. My cousin, who had just gone to Peru, also sent me alpaca yarn. When the dust settled I had acquired 8 more skeins of yarn for the cat.
  • Suddenly I had put another 16 skeins of yarn into the stash. Oops! Panic knitting time!! I cranked up into overdrive and began on an Understated Sweater by Joji Locatelli last week and cast it off today. My project notes are here. 6 skeins polished off just like that! My skein count is now 39 removed from the stash and I am again hopeful that I will make the goal. I do have another sweater that I want to start soon that should consume lots of skeins, so I am hopeful. Then there will be the Christmas knitting…
  • It is cold and snowy here today, but hopefully I will be able to get a picture of the finished sweater in the next day or two.

MacKenzie Speaks: First Day of Fall

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

The Mother of Cats says that the seasons changed today and that fall has arrived. Whatever. Is that a type of cookies?

The Mother of Cats and I went outside to water all of the plants today and I must say that the flowers all look the same to me, and the squirrels are as frisky as ever, but there IS something going on with the trees…

The leaves are starting to look funny!! 

I’m not sure why fall is a big deal, but the Mother of Cats is knitting faster then ever. She says crazy stuff like Winter is Coming! and I need more sweaters! The Mother of Cats can be really confusing sometimes… Anyway, she worked like crazy over the weekend and look at what she got finished:

That’s right. Soft fluffy cashmere blend mash-up socks. 

If the Mother of Cats loved me she would let me have these socks to put in my bed, but NOPE! she won’t take them off her feet. Why is the Mother of Cats so very selfish? She says that they are for her to sleep in on cold nights, but it isn’t even a little cold and she is wearing them right now. Selfish Mother of Cats!! I want my own cashmere sleeping socks, too!! Well, I want them to sleep on, but you get the idea.

I’m such a good boy!

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

These socks are a mash up of three other socks patterns. The details are on my Ravelry project page.

Check out the garter stitch heel on these babies. They aren’t sturdy, but boy are they soft, comfy, and warm! Look at that cashmere halo on them!

To MacKenzie’s disgust I haven’t started knitting the second sleeve on my Koivua sweater. I went crazy and cast on another sweater. It’s too soon to talk about it, but here’s a teaser showing off the knitted fabric and one of the stitch markers I made to go with it.

I had to start this sweater right away because it kind of screams “Fall!” Seriously. I need this sweater immediately. I’ll get that other sleeve finished before the end of the month…

Happy Fall, everyone!

MacKenzie Speaks: She’s Casting On Again!!

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

The Mother of Knits and I have been working really hard lately and we have been making progress on her projects.

She whipped up a simple pair of socks with this yarn that she really likes: Concrete Sunset sock yarn dyed by Western Sky Knits. Her project notes are here.
I’ve been closely supervising her work on the Koivua sweater all week. This is starting to look pretty good, huh. Will the Mother of Cats let me sleep on this stunning and fluffy new cat bed? No. She will not. I keep trying to explain it to her, but she is so self absorbed! Always, it is about her needs and she never leaves it out for me to nap on.

This week the Mother of Cats realized that she had NOTHING to knit in bed while listening to audiobooks. There was a panicky search of the yarn stash (woohoo! I love helping the Mother of Cats in the stash room!) and a search for patterns on the computer and in her pattern notebooks. I helped her look for patterns by plopping my body down on all of the ones that I thought looked good. Why does the Mother of Cats get so emotional while I’m helping her? I only scratched her a little bit while scrabbling through the papers…  Anyway,  after finding the yarns and patterns we were ready to wind the yarn and get going on casting on lots of new knitting fun. I love winding yarn!!! The Mother of Cats needs to do things like this that I like more often. She can be so boring sometimes…

We picked these two yarns to make a Mount Moran Lace Cowl. I can’t wait to make this!
The Mother of Cats’ feet get cold all the time now. We decided that this yarn would be perfect to make her some yummy cashmere bed socks. Oh. Now that I look at this again it would also be good to make another Mount Moran Lace Cowl. Hmmm… maybe we need to go look through the stash for some more yarn for socks. Woohoo! More play time!!
The Mother of Cats and I decided to make another Suburban Wrap by Joji Locatelli with this yarn. I can’t wait to get started on this one!
But the project that got started right away was another simple pair of socks that can be knitted while listening to audiobooks in bed in the evenings. I always sleep on the Mother of Cats legs and help her keep track of her rows while she works. It is my favorite time of the day/night.

Do you notice that any of these projects are for me? No, you DO NOT!! Not one of these projects is for me after all that work I did to help her find patterns and yarn. There is no mouse here! Where is the new cat bed or kitty blanket? Why is the Mother of Cats so very, very selfish!!

Okay, I’m calm again. I do love knitting with the Mother of Cats. Okay, it isn’t as good as going outside to play in the yard, but she does remember to pay attention to me in the evenings. I get my favorite cat food for dinner, she pets me while we knit, I usually get to chomp yarn, Little Miss Pitty Pat comes out to play and eat her dinner, and I get to sleep on the down comforter on the bed. Life is okay with the Mother of Cats.

Why does she do these HORRIBLE THINGS to me?

That’s right. Today she crammed me into the pet carrier and took me to the vet’s office for SHOTS!!! The horror. The betrayal. There were dogs there!!!! Why does the Mother of Cats do these things to me? She did give me some kitty cookies when I got back, but it was just AWFUL!!!

I have been sleeping since getting back from the horrible adventure this afternoon, but I’m going to get up in a few minutes to demand that I have another yummy serving of cat food and then a trip outside to play with the bugs and squirrels. She owes me! Then it will be knitting time and I’ll be chomping yarn overtime because… she owes me!!

I’m such a good boy!

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats: I’ve got nothing, MacKenzie said it all! Let’s hope he stays sleepy from his vaccinations so I can cast on a couple of new projects this evening because this yarn is too stupendous to ignore. 🙂

MacKenzie Speaks: We finished the WTF?! Shawl!!

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

The Mother of Cats and I have been hard at work this week trying to get her new shawl done.
I’ve been doing quality control as much as possible…
which is just exhausting so I have to admit that there have been some naps. Just a couple. Okay, it has been hot, so I spend most of my day napping. But I carefully check the Mother of Cats’ work every time I wake up to make sure she hasn’t slipped any stitches. There may be also s0me requests for cookies while I’m up. What? I’m working hard, and I need COOKIES!!

Yesterday the Mother of Cats finally finished the bind off of the shawl (an I-cord bind off that made her grumpy because it took so long) and we took it outside to get some pictures. By the time we got out there it was getting ready to rain, so we had to work fast. I don’t like rain. If you had fur like mine you wouldn’t like rain either!

Do you see that she hasn’t even woven in the ends yet? The Mother of Cats can be so lazy. She also needs to steam block the shawl so that the edges are smooth. Still, it is really nice and cushy for kitties to lie on.
I, MacKenzie the Magnificent, claim this shawl for my very own!!

The Mother of Cats likes to take pictures of shawl hanging on the fence, but we were running the sprinkler while this picture was being taken, so that will have to wait for another day. Still, can you see how nicely these colors show off my fur? Obviously, this shawl needs to become my new blankie! The Mother of Cats would give it to me if she loved me, right?

I’m such a good boy. She never could have made this shawl without me!

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • This shawl is the What the Fade?! shawl by Andrea Mowry. I was having some trouble getting Ravelry to update my project page this afternoon, but if you want to peak at the yarn that I got into the data base my project notes are here.
  • I cut MacKenzie’s claws right before this photoshoot… no shawls were harmed by cats in the production of this blog post!
  • The upper portion of the shawl is brioche (slow, but so squishy and rewarding) and the lower portion is garter, garter, garter. All of the border, CO and BO are I-cord, and that stabilizes the shape of the shawl and keeps the squishness under control.
  • MacKenzie will not be getting this shawl for his bed!!

The Scleroderma Chronicles: Safe House

You know, I kind of view myself as a happy camper. I have more things (ahem… knitting projects) going then I can get finished on any given day or week, books lined up to read, and a “to-do” list that I’m slowly working my way through. Hey, people, I fixed the loose tiles on my kitchen floor last week!! My cat MacKenzie is my constant sidekick throughout the day as I knit, work in the garden, read in bed, and even with me (underfoot, demanding cookies) while I’m cooking. Even on the bad days when I’m pretty much down for the count, I manage small victories. There is just one problem with this picture.

Look at these beautiful coneflowers I just added to the garden. I’m hoping to lure some butterflies into the yard. Every garden should have butterflies, don’t you think?

I just don’t fit in the world all that well anymore. In my home, living the life that I’ve created for myself, it is really easy to forget how much I have adapted to accommodate the limitations of my scleroderma, Sjogren’s, and fibromyalgia. Once I go anywhere else reality hits me hard. Every trip out of my house is going to come at a cost. Here are the worst of the offenders that will lay me low.

Air Conditioning I know that almost everyone in the world is grateful for air conditioning in the summertime, but for me it is a royal nightmare. The shock of walking into a refrigerated building on a hot summer day will trigger an immediate Raynaud’s attack. I pull on long sleeves and fingerless mitts as soon as I get into the building, but my lungs know what’s up and I have trouble breathing. The airflow makes my eyes burn; I’ve been reduced to wearing my sunglasses indoors to protect my eyes. Don’t even get me started on the refrigerated cases churning out cold air; you haven’t lived until you’ve had to pull up the hood of your sweatshirt and the sleeves down over your hands so you can score some butter and eggs.  If that wasn’t enough, there are also usually…

Scented Products Almost all buildings use scented cleaning products and sells additional items with scents. Candles. Lotions. Laundry soap. The scented bathrooms are a nightmare. If I’m not already in trouble with my breathing I will be if I have to walk down the laundry detergent aisle at the grocery store: I also start to itch and my face swells. Why do these chemicals even exist? They can’t be good for anyone!

Restaurants These are a special kind of hell for me. All the drinks come cold and with ice, and the entrees are served piping hot. There are other landmines that I need to avoid: salt, lactose, fiber.  I have to carefully select something that is very soft and that will behave itself in my gastroparesis stomach. I can’t have spicy food. I can’t eat fresh veggies. Actually, to be safe, some of this food should go through a blender… I actually once soaked a cut up sandwich in soup so I could eat it…

Walking I am trying really hard to meet my walking goals every day, but I stretch those steps out over the day. A trip to run errands can be just exhausting if I’m on my feet for a couple of hours at a time. I need to always carry water, be aware of the location of bathrooms, and have places where I can sit down if I need to.

Sunshine It makes me sick! Enough said.

Ready for another picture? These paper wasps are building a nest right on the edge of my deck! MacKenzie and I are not amused. Still, it kind of shows how the outside world is full of dangers…

Recently I had a tough talk with myself about pruning down my outings and being more strategic about how I expend my energy. I need fewer outings, and my destinations need to be closer to home. I need to live online. I need to in a safe environment as much as I can to manage my diseases.

My home is my safe house. I have no air conditioning and I minimize air flow. I keep the temperature in the mid 70’s in the day so that my joints and lungs will be happy. I cook all of my own food, I don’t own any salt at all, and everything that I drink is room temperature. Fruits and veggies go through the blender to become smoothies. Every product that comes into the house is scent free. I’m always close to a bathroom or a soft surface to crash onto for a quick recovery if I get dizzy. My stairs have wrought iron rails that I use effectively on bad joint days. Flourishing in my safe house I sometimes forget how sick I am because, well, I have fewer problems.

I planted this yarrow last year in a flowerbed that has killed almost everything planted into it. Not this yarrow!! The secret of gardening, and living with serious chronic illness, is to keep on trying new things, and to match your needs to your environment. Or, in my case, make your environment match your needs.

Tomorrow I have a doctor’s appointment so I listed up some symptoms and issues that I need to ask her about. It is quite a list now that I look at it, and it kind of underscores how chronic illness can trick you into thinking that things that would normally send you screaming into urgent care are “just another day of scleroderma.” Shortness of breath is an almost daily thing. When I glance into the mirror these days I sometimes notice that my face is blue. One hip keeps failing me; okay, I actually have to lift that leg to get into the car. My joints swell so much that I can’t sleep at night.

But I am good, here in my little safe house with my gardens and cat.

Tomorrow my doctor and I will attack some of these scleroderma/Sjogren’s issues. I kind of think that lung testing and a MRI of my hip are in the future, and that there may be follow-up with my pulmonologist. I’ve been gathering up my energy in preparation for these outings into a world that is dangerous for me, knowing that after each outing my garden swing, knitting and latest book will be waiting for me. With a room temperature ice tea.

And a cat!

It is good to have a safe house.