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.

Knitting MacKenzie

Yep. I have caught the cat knitting bug. It’s kind of a problem that I have; as I knit a project I dream of ways to improve it, new colors that I could use, and different yarns that might work better. More than once I have finished up a sweater or shawl just chomping at the bit to cast on another one to see what it would look like with my new ideas. Too much curiosity, but I just can’t help myself. I have to see the new version.

By the time I was finishing up knitting my son’s cat Daxter I has already made plans to make two more cats, and there is probably a couple more in the works, too. Must have more cats!! The most obvious next cat to knit is MacKenzie.

Unbelievably handsome cat in the light of a window.
Look at how handsome MacKenzie is! Knitting him is a big exercise in color problem solving.
Here is one of the problems: MacKenzie is a ticked tabby cat. His fur changes color as it grows out, and the changes in color put a lot of depth into the final product on the cat.

Cat, the pattern by Claire Garland, uses several yarns stranded together to create the multi-colored furry cat. I needed 2 mohairs and another yarn at all times while knitting the cat; different effects are created by changing one or more yarns as you move from section to section of the cat. I realized that I could create tabby stripes with fourth mohair as I knitted the body of the cat due to the construction techniques. I started collecting yarns for the Knitting MacKenzie project while I was still stitching Daxter. I found a rich cedar mohair. I found some black and cream. I began to search for yarn online and made multiple trips to the yarn store.

This mohair was a huge acquisition, but there are all those other colors in MacKenzie’s coat that I needed to find somehow.
I decided to use the grey/black yarn to help simulate stripes in MacKenzie’s coat. Look at his face! I planned to use the cedar and cream mohair yarns to capture some of the color on his chin and around his nose and whiskers.
Here is most of the yarn that I’ve settled on for the project. In addition to these I have two more mohair yarns and another alpaca/silk yarn that I’m using for his chin.

Whew! Late in the week I began to swatch all types of yarn combinations so I could get a feel for how they would look together and planned where to place them on the cat while I knit it. Last night I finally cast on and began knitting MacKenzie. My project notes are here, but right now there’s not much there other than a listing of the yarns.

So far, MacKenzie isn’t all that impressed…

As soon as I get above the ears the black mohair jumps in and I can begin the black ridge down MacKenzie’s back. Then there will be stripes. This is fun.

Stay tuned. There is more to come. 🙂

MacKenzie: Can I have some cookies now?

Knitting Daxter

This is Daxter.

Daxter was a birthday gift to my son years ago: best present ever. 
Daxter loved his sister Maya.
But he especially was bonded to my son. Whenever possible, he was on his lap. He had a purr that you could hear across a room.
An exceptionally expressive cat, you always had an idea of what Daxter was thinking. He visibly worried, literally wagged when he was happy, and smiled when he was glad to see you. On this occasion I had stopped by to check on the cats while my son was hospitalized. This “proof of life” snapshot showed how he felt about me showing up when he had been separated from my son for TWO WHOLE DAYS!!

I bought the yarn and decided to knit Daxter last summer as a gift to my son for Christmas, but following a rapid and shocking series of events last September Daxter left us; it was only 24 hours after the first hint that something was horribly wrong. I put the yarn away, but a few weeks ago I took it back out and started on it again. (I blogged a little about the early efforts here). Okay, this wasn’t all smooth sailing… the pattern by Claire Garland (called Cat) was really well written and had lots of picture support. There was also video support for how to complete the cat once the knitting was done. It was about 40 pages in length, however, so I worked off my computer for the first time. I may have lost my place a couple of times while scrolling up and down through the pattern… I wasn’t completely happy with the colors of the yarns that I found. It’s hard to make a completely realistic cat.

But this was ridiculous! Obviously, mistakes were made. The pattern suggested brown yarn for the eye socket, and MacKenzie has black around his eye, so I went for it. Ugh!! The eyes I bought on Amazon look more like snake eyes, and what is up with the ear on the left? After looking at it carefully and checking the pattern I found that I had accidently made it like the previous ear, instead of being the opposite side. 

Sigh. Never, ever, in the history of cat knitting was there a more wonky looking cat. There were strategic snips and frogging as I attacked the cat parts that annoyed me the most. I ordered new eyes with my son selecting the correct color and shape. I replaced the eye socket with light colored mohair. I took apart, ripped out and reknit the ear on the left. The first nose had to be replaced twice. Sometimes you can overthink these things: I went out and found some cheap eyes that I could use for right now while we wait for the better ones. I embroidered on some stripes to match Daxter.

Here is the finished (almost) cat.

This is much closer to what I was thinking about!
Even MacKenzie agrees!
The little cat almost seems real as I flipped it around while adding embroidered stripes and details. Look at that face!!
Here he is trying out MacKenzie’s blankie. 

Last night I took the cat up to my son’s for New Year’s and we settled him onto the loveseat in the office where Daxter used to hang out from time to time.

and here he is, knitted Daxter, home at last. I plan to add more embroidery later on, but for now is is done.

Happy New Year, everyone.

I will be knitting more cats (and maybe a wild rabbit) this year. May you all also find a project that gives you joy in the coming year.

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: 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.