The Saturday Update: Week 25

What a week this has been. I have a new kitten, we broke a heat record this week, and then there were a couple of days of cold and rain. The garden came through all of it in good shape. The kitten has already wrapped me around her little paw. The Covid-19 pandemic is calming down in my state, but the states around us are experiencing skyrocketing numbers, making me feel like we are in the eye of the storm. This is the  evening of the summer solstice; the shortest night of the year. Momentous days continue.

Knitting

During the cold days last week I struggled to stay warm, especially my arms. I cleaned out the yarn room and kept looking at the left over yarn from the Sweet & Tartan socks that I made. Gee, I really liked those yarns while knitting the socks. You know that I had to make arm warmers…

I decided to just stripe the yarns instead of making the tartan pattern using the two main colors of the socks. I added the bright pink I-cord to the socks after casting off. My Ravelry notes are here.

The pattern for these arm warmers is Armelitas  by knitcats Designs. I have to be honest: I didn’t hunt up the pattern this time but just went with the general memory of the pattern and kept making adjustments as I went. I tried to write what I did into the notes on my Ravelry page.

The finished arm warmers are a big hit with Hannah…
These arm warmers are longer then others that I have made. I can pull them up above my elbow or just let them bunch up around my wrists. Either way, these will be warm and really handy later on when I’m cold.

Do you see the knitted Maya cat that I’m holding in my arms? She was there for the picture because I’ve been working on her adding fluffy fur to her the last couple of days while listening to my audiobook.

She needs her new fur brushed out, but I’m trying to not handle it too much until I’m done so that I don’t pull too much of the mohair out. She is getting really furry, don’t you think? The original cat is extremely fluffy!!
Garden

Things are exploding into bloom all over my garden!! A couple of years ago I bought a few 6-packs of some bedding plants to put into the front flower bed along the walk up to the front door. They bloomed, and were okay, but amazingly they survived the winter and came back looking bigger and better last summer. This year they are back again looking just stupendous!! Ladies and gentlemen, let me present this year’s Dianthus and Dusty Miller combo.

Obviously these are perennial plants!

My roses are looking pretty good, too. I’m so happy that they are making such a good come back after the late hard freeze and high wind events of this spring.

My Cinco de Mayo rose is looking great. I just love this color.
The rose that is just thriving and covered with blooms is my Princess of Alexandra of Kent rose. Look at how many buds are surrounding this bloom. I usually don’t like pink roses, but this one is the perfect color.

The front roses are also blooming like champs, but how many roses can go into one post? I have to save some for next week. 🙂

Books

I am back to reading The Mirror & The Light. I’m not done yet, but I am entranced by the language and the building story. It is finally dawning on me that this book is about a great transition and upheaval in the power and social structures of England through the machinations of King Henry VIII and his right hand man, Thomas Cromwell.

I am finally at the heart of the story: Henry is the Mirror and the Light above all other princes, and Cromwell draws some power by existing in the reflected light. The corrupt practices of the medieval church are being overturned and the bible is being translated into English. The new churches will provide registries of all births, marriages, and deaths so that common people will have a recorded history. The roads will be improved as jobs are given to the needy. A comprehensive plan for the defense of England is being set in place. There is a big, over-reaching plan in motion here, and Cromwell is very aware of his limits. He feels the history of his time all around him, is burdened by ghosts everywhere he goes, and he is deliberately building the infrastructure, human and physical, that will need to be in place after his passing.  The past, present and future are continually coming together as Cromwell reflects and acts in the service of his and Henry’s vision for the nation. This is bigger, much  bigger, than I expected. I’ve been avoiding the end of the book because, well, things don’t end well for Cromwell, but now I’m kind of thinking that maybe they do…

 

Were you wondering how Hannah is doing? She follows me from room to room, and when I’m working downstairs she has found a little niche for herself on the bookshelf.

Hannah is turning into the easiest kitten ever to raise. She wants to be with me as much as she can, and just now is starting to play with toys in another room as long as she knows where I’m at. She sleeps through the night. She already has a favorite toy and rockets around the house with it in her mouth or tosses it around while she’s playing. She calls for me if she doesn’t know where I am. She is a huge chowhound and I have to be very careful when opening the refrigerator because she wants to climb in.  So far she hasn’t caused much destruction, but I have discovered that she can sever yarn with one chomp of her little kitten teeth, so knitting is happening really carefully. Luckily she naps a lot!

Have a great week, everyone!!

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

 

A Little Wednesday Sunshine

Actually, I am staying out of the sunshine today because it is pretty darn hot outside and smoky from wildfires to boot! Inside, Hannah and I are hanging out; I’m knitting and she is playing with a new toy on her cat pillar. I just want to mention that I can knit because there is a new toy hung from her cat pillar…

Five days after coming home from the shelter Hannah pretty much owns the house. 

There. Doesn’t that make you feel happy?

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Knitting Maya

This is Maya.

Maya is the last cat that I need to knit in the family. There is a big technical problem with Maya… she is excessively fluffy!!

Maya was adopted a few years ago from a cat shelter to be a companion to my son’s cat Daxter. “She’s a firecracker,” my son was told when he looked at her in the kitten room. She certainly is! She pretty much ruled the kitten room at the shelter, and now she pretty much rules the roost at my son’s place.  Of course I need to knit her up too.

Maya’s coloration is what is referred to as “tuxedo” , a beautiful black and white pattern. Her extreme fluffiness is the Maine coon part. Her attitude is all her own… do you see she was swatting at the camera with her paw while this picture was being taken?

I’ve been collecting black and white mohair yarn to create a knitted Maya for weeks now. I plan to use the usual pattern: Cat by Claire Garland. Once I had the yarn collected I still kind of worried about how all that black would look on the finished cat.

Here’s the problem: there is a lot of shaping in the cat’s face, and I also learned that it was important to use shading with different combinations of yarn to make the face more realistic. Hard to do with all black and all white patches…

I spend more time than I want to admit to watching videos on Facebook. I also watch an artist create paintings of pets… DawgArt Pet Portraits. She paints live on Facebook and it is so interesting to see how she creates realistic pet portraits using unusual colors. One of her tricks is to use purple and other dark hues instead of black.  My son suggested that I use purple yarn in Maya’s black patches. Oh. I have purple yarn in the stash…

I swatched lots of ideas. Purple mohair with black yarn. Black mohair with purple yarn. Purple yarn with clumps of knitted in black wool from a fleece. The Black mohair with purple yarn works the best and is what I plan to use. Once the black halo develops the purple will just shine through and will add the texture that I need.

Still worried about getting the fluff affect I went digging through the stash hunting for really fuzzy mohair that could be dyed black.

Oh, this is really fuzzy yarn. Into the dye pot it went!!
Mohair yarn dyed black.
The dyed yarn is mostly black with some pink highlights in it… perfect for a tuxedo cat with purple undertones in the black sections!
Here is all of the yarn that I plan to use to create knitted Maya.

I’m going to use two strands of mohair (Rowan and Shibui) with purple for her face and will add in the strand of dyed mohair on her body; with a little brushing I’m hoping that the finished knitted cat will have the illusion of long hair. All of the black portions will use purple yarn with the mohair, and the white is staying white. I will need to do a little embroidery with white on her nose, and some trickery to get her lips just right, but I think that I know what to do now.

Whew! All of that planning is now out of the way and I’m looking forward to finally start knitting.

Hurry up Nana! I’m waiting for my knitted twin to arrive!

The Saturday Update: Week 9

The local news station posted on Facebook this morning that there are only 300 days until Christmas. Why do they do this? Already, I am feeling the pressure and thinking about what I need to craft/knit/weave for this year’s Christmas.  I did take out the spinning wheel this week and got organized to do some quilting. So much pressure if you are a fiber artist/crazy person…

Knitting

I had a busy knitting week. It was so busy, in fact, that I already did a little posting about what I was up to as I worked out the swatches to knit another cat to match my son’s kitten Jonesy and ended up dyeing some mohair yarn in a crockpot. If you missed it, here is that post.

Last night I took the swatches up to my son’s place to match them to the real thing: Jonesy.

They were a big hit; Jonesy thinks they are a new kick toy. They are also a good match, especially the color that I dyed to create his stripes.

I got back to work on my Pebble Tunic later on in the week. It doesn’t look like I made a lot of progress, but I have connected the front and back and am knitting down the body of the sweater making some increases as I go. It is all mindless knitting until I hit the pockets in another 10 inches of knitting or so.

This yarn is just wonderful to work with. My project notes on Ravelry are here.
I also went back to simple knitting because… well, this is embarrassing… I snipped into my thumb with my scissors. My scleroderma hands sometimes misbehave, but this is just ridiculous!! Good thing I had a knitted finger protector on hand to hold the bandage in place and add protection.
I’m also finishing up the second snowshoe sock being created at DK weight by holding a wild multicolored yarn from Western Sky Knits with a single ply inky colored MadTosh yarn. The project notes are here.

This is a bittersweet project to finish up. It is the last one that my sweet boy yarn chomped/supervised earlier this week. I’m so glad now that I let him eat all the cookies that he wanted, tolerated all his knitting help, held and babied him when I wanted to do other things, and switched him back to his favorite food for those last few weeks.

MacKenzie was always a lot of help. If you missed it, my boy left me this week and I blogged about it here.
Garden

The best part of orchid ownership has arrived: the orchids left the craft room with its grow lights and moved into the living room to strut their stuff to the general public. Okay, it is just me, but it makes me so happy to have them out on display.

The miniature orchid with its darker magenta blooms joined the rose gold orchid on the china cabinet. Do you like that funky unglazed orchid pot? I get them at my local nursery and the orchids really seem to like them.
The Monster orchid is now on my coffee table where its lovely orange/pink bloom (there are more on the way) displays well with the plum furniture and the gold walls. Happy orchid, happy me!
Books

Well, I have settled into the most amazing book ever this week. I can’t believe how much I love this book. I bought it because Melinda of Knit Potion recommended it on her blog. Oh, my goodness!! I am so glad that she pointed this incredible book out to me.

<Disclaimer: I am a life long science geek and biologist. I didn’t always love plants, but now I drive people walking along with me crazy as I stop to take a good look at vegetation. I was thrilled when a slime mold emerged in the pot of one of my jade plants this summer. I’ve gone on workshops and field trips to forests, burn zones, and learned about the forest management strategies employed to maintain Denver’s watersheds. I think that it is absolutely reasonable to marvel over the mechanics of water movement through plants and the complexity of chloroplasts…>

I’m about a third of the way through the book, and so far it is a collection of stories about the interactions and meaningful relationships of different individuals with… trees! Sounds kind of strange and boring, but no, it is not! It is magical. I am hoping that the people catch up with each other to save the forest soon…

Here it is. I did take a break from the book and watched the movie Tolkien. Would you believe it – trees feature in this movie and Tolkien tells his kids to go talk to the trees. That’s it. Never underestimate the power of communing with trees…

Before you think that this is crazy, let me share with you a little tree story from my family. Starting her life over after tumultuous times and a painful divorce, my mother bought a trailer home and began to garden again. She grew amazing roses and boatloads of blackberries. She planted a tree. A Podocarpus Macrophilia tree, to be exact. She loved the tree, fed it, babied it, and eventually hung a bird feeder in its branches. She treasured this tree and it just thrived under her care. Mowing the lawn under the tree one day she began to realize that there was something wrong: abdominal and back pain. It was cancer. Years later, facing down her coming death she selected her burial plot and made all of her final decisions in a manner that serves as a pathway to me and all others who knew her. She chose a location with a beautiful view of the hills and canyons of San Diego, under a Podocarpus Macrophilia tree. The last time I saw her grave there were wind chimes and a small bird feeder hanging from the tree.

Never discount the importance of a tree.

Have a great week, everyone!! Read a little, knit a little, and garden like your heart can’t live without it.

MacKenzie Speaks: Hey, Yellow Boy! Save a Garter Snake for Me!!

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Life has been good to me.
The Mother of Cats has given me lots of pets, toys and cookies. Even though she didn’t always give me everything that I wanted, I know that she did the best she could.
I once beat up the pit bull who lives next door…
and I spent hours and hours out in my favorite shady spot waiting for wayward squirrels and birds…
and I supervised lots of knitting projects for the Mother of Cats. Maybe there was a little yarn chomping on the side, but hey, I’m a cat!!

Today things got really bad for me again and the Mother of Cats held me tight as I slipped away to heaven. I’m on my way there now and I totally expect to have some cookies waiting for me when I get there!

This is MacKenzie, signing off.

>^..^<

Hurry up, Bro! I’ve got a garter snake all warmed up for you!! Just wait until you see how big the butterflies are here… There is a cat mint patch bigger than anything you’ve ever seen before, too!!

MacKenzie

January 2004 – February 26, 2020

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!

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.

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!