The Saturday Update: Week 13

Wow. Week thirteen already. That is a quarter of the year. Things are going by quickly, or incredibly slowly, depending on how you look at it. I do hope that everyone is doing well.

Knitting

I showed off the Pebble Tunic a few days ago in my last post, so I won’t subject you to another picture now. Truthfully, it only has had a couple of pocket linings added to it at this point. It will be much more interesting to show off once there is some sleeve action, right? Stay tuned for further updates on the pink tunic wonderfulness…

The tunic got so little action because I finished up the cat I was knitting.

Do you remember my son’s kitten Jonesy? I’ve been knitting a doppelganger of Jonesy for a few weeks now. It was a real challenge to get yarn combinations that would mimic his coloration realistically, and I even had to dye some yarn to get the stripes right. 

Today I finished sewing the knitted cat together and began to excitedly take pictures of him to send to my son who is staying-in-place in a city north of me.

What do you think?
Those stripes are exactly the way that I wanted them to turn out!! I couldn’t be happier with how this cat looks.
Now MacKnitzie has a friend to hang out with until I can get the cat to my son.

This pattern is Cat by Claire Garland. My project notes on the Jonesy version of the pattern are here.

Garden

Are you sick of looking at my monster orchid yet? Sorry. That is all that I’ve got right now. The big boy had two more blooms open this week and I finally had to stake one of the bloom stems up to keep the plant upright. This plant makes me happy every time I see it, and it certainly is making the living room a cheerful place to read in under my weighted blanket.

There, doesn’t he look really nice with that stake in place?
Remember when I was over-the-moon excited about the rose gold orchid blooming? I have a miniature orchid in the pot with it right now. I know that you don’t get the whole scale of the monster orchid which is now over 2 feet tall with its blooms in a single shot, so I took a photo of the orchids together. See. He’s a monster!!!

Off to the far left in the group orchid shot above is the weeping fig tree. I keep looking at it as I consider what chunks to cut off when I prune it next week. Poor tree. It doesn’t know what’s coming…

Books

Staying home alone, day after day, my mind skitters around jumping from association to association. Right now one of the drugs that I am on is in the news as it might have some efficacy in treating Covid-19 patients. The drug is a derivative of quinine, the malaria drug, and is called hydroxychloroquine.  Hearing about this, my brain immediately took off: How does this drug hydroxychloroquine actually work? How are the protists that cause malaria like the mobile white blood cells that are invading my lungs? Suddenly I was back in the lab I once worked in counting activated white blood cells in my microscope view field. Then I associated that scene with one in the book Lab Girl that I am listening to while knitting (and sewing a cat) in the evenings. The scientist in Lab Girl does a lot of outdoor work with soils… I spent a year teaching about soils and weather to students when I first transferred to teaching in the high school. Weather. I took a summer course at NOAA to learn about weather where we graphed tons of data on maps. Weather is crazy hard to study and teach. So much chaos, so much data, so hard to find the patterns in the data that streams in from a multitude of sources…

I just finished the book Weather: A Novel (by Jenny Offill) before I started Lab Girl. What an amazing experience. I am utterly in awe of how the author captures the brain skitterings and inner voice of our heroine Lizzie as she moves through her life and offers elusive connections that create images and patterns out of the chaos. Just like weather itself, there is a lot of data occurring as single events that create larger patterns and trends through time. The story is created in small text snippets of amazing imagery and tongue in cheek humor that carry us along. Lizzie is a failed psychologist and a librarian; she uses her observations of people around her and her endless access to knowledge in the library to navigate through her world. We follow Lizzie along as her life evolves over a few years while she grapples with her life, her connections and responsibilities to others, and the answers to really big questions that she needs to answer as part of a part-time job. The questions are exhausting and take a tole on her: what is important in a world rolling in possible extreme outcomes? Scary outcomes. Outcomes like climate change, war, and pandemics… What is one little life when all the rest of this is on the horizon?

Maybe this isn’t the best book to read at this moment, but I think that I will remember it for a long time.

The Saturday Update: Week 11

Life is suddenly getting a little intense, isn’t it? I hope that everyone is safe and that you have your plans (and food) in place to prepare for days and weeks at home. I feel that I’m about as well prepared as I can be: months of prescriptions on hand, a yarn and craft stash that can keep me occupied for months, if not years, and all the consumable goods for several weeks at home. I already am a bulk buyer who keeps a well stocked pantry, so the last minute shopping that I had to do was pretty minor. I bought some potting soil, canned goods, some meats to freeze, and the most important item on my list:

While everyone else was grabbing toilet paper and Spam, this is what went into to my cart!!

I’m not hoarding. This is essential for life! I also need coffee, but I bought a huge bag a few weeks ago, so I am set!

Knitting

I am still running around to medical facilities for testing, and even fit in a dentist appointment and a phone appointment with one of my doctors. The knitting is suffering in consequence, but the sweater, a Pebble Tunic (Joji Locatelli) is slowing growing and I am a few inches away from the pockets. Most of the knitting went into the knitted copy of my son’s kitten Jonesy. I finished the back feet this week and am ready to start the front paws.

Those back feet look just ridiculous, don’t they! Once they are sewn up and fitted into the body of the cat they will look much better.
What do you think of the color match?

I hope to get this done in the next week. I can’t wait to get the eyes in and the ears onto this cat’s head!

Garden

This week all the birds came back and we had rain after months of snow; Spring is right around the corner. My indoor miniature roses are getting tired of the indoor life and long for stronger sun, but I am suddenly getting more blooms on them.

At least the mildew that was a problem in the early winter has gone. Hang on little bushes; in a few more weeks you will be headed outside again for the summer.
The orchids continue to wow as more blooms appear. I seriously am in love with the monster orchid. I put it out on display in the living room for most of the week and then it returns to its floodlight for a few days of quality rays. So far this is working and the plant continues to bloom and look healthy.
Books

Today I finished (at long last) The Overstory by Richard Power. This is an amazing book and totally worth reading, but I want to make some caveats:

    • There are a lot of characters with intertwining stories. Their names change from time to time. The author jumps back and forth between the characters as he synchronizes the story line elements to build a complex, but compelling, conclusion. This is not a good book to read slowly over a few weeks.
    • I listened to a lot of this book while knitting, which was another mistake. It made things too slow. The jumps between characters, which is obvious in the text formatting, was confusing in the audible version. I couldn’t keep track of the names and shifting imagery the way I should of.
    • You kind of have to love nature, appreciate art, and value a complex multi-layered story to enjoy this book.
    • I am a geek, a biologist, and an outdoor educator for my state. I think that visiting a fish hatchery is a fabulous outing. I long to have a bee hive. I tend to let spiders and shrubs just do their thing with a little gentle intervention… and I also struggle with my neighbors to leave my front lawn alone; they will trim shrubs, spray for weeds, and edge the grass if I don’t keep an eye on them. These men are trying to help, and I appreciate them immensely, but that perfectly trimmed shrub just had all of its flowers clipped off…  why do men think that shrubs need to be perfect cubes? I mulch under my rose bushes and they helpfully clear out my flower beds. They also take cuttings from my plants and admire my roses. I do manage to keep the back yard the way I want: the leaves don’t get raked in the fall, and the dandelions flourish back there in the spring for the bees. By midsummer my back lawn looks great, I have bees swarming my other flowering plants, and the neighbors comment from time to time about how nice it looks. Somehow the front yard doesn’t do as well… because of all this I appreciated some of the messages in the book.

I’m glad that I read The Overstory, and the name is really meaningful once you have finished the book, but I do think that it isn’t for everyone. Me, I will never look at a tree the same way again.

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

The Saturday Update: Week 10

This week I have been really busy with appointments and testing. I wrote about the first round of doctor’s appointments in this earlier post (The Blue-Lipped Zebra Report) where I also showed off my fabulous monster orchid in bloom and a pair of finished socks. I finished the week with an echocardiogram and two MRI tests. In the week when COVID-19 arrived in Colorado I walked into 4 different medical clinics feeling like I was walking into the lion’s den. Hopefully there will be some good results soon. Next week it just keeps going as I have two more tests scheduled; after the test results arrive I have appointments with two of my doctors again. Whew!

Knitting

Knitting took a hit this week as I spent too much time driving around completing medical tests to get much knitting done, but I did make some progress on the Pebble Tunic.

Sigh. This is the part of sweater knitting that takes out the faint of heart. I’m knitting down the body of the sweater, and even though I’ve added almost 6 inches of knitting, it feels like I’m not getting anything accomplished. In about 4 more inches I get to add the pockets. Yay! Something different.

I’m knitting the tunic holding a single ply fingering yarn with a silk-mohair lace yarn, and knitting with the two yarns is just a joy. So soft and yummy feeling. My project notes are here. I also started knitting a copy of my son’s kitten Jonesy, which is really fun and involves even more yummy mohair. Check this out.

Once again I’m using the pattern Cat by Claire Garland. If you would like to see what yarns I’m using you can check them out on my Ravelry page.
I’m going to use some embroidery to add more color to the face later (stripes and freckles) but I think that I’m doing pretty good on the color match. I can’t wait to start knitting the stripes in Jonesy’s body.
Garden

All of this medical testing is a little traumatizing: long drives to cold rooms where I battle to control my Raynaud’s while the tests are being run. Today I drove 2 hours to be trapped in an MRI machine for 90 minutes. One hand was solid blue when I got done, but as soon as I got outside into the warmth it pinked up again. After fun like that I need a little reward, don’t you think? After leaving the clinic I drove straight to the nursery and bought my African violet some little buddies. Aren’t these just the cutest?

Aren’t these the happiest guys ever? I found the little pots on the discount shelf: perfect!!

These violets are really small and were next to the miniature plants section, so I’m not sure exactly how big these plants are going to be, but they are blooming like crazy so I have high hopes for these little guys. My original African violet is the one in the background.

Books

Another sigh. I’m still reading the same book, The Overstory by Richard Powers. I’m further along with the story, and, as I anticipated, the cast of characters (all people with a relationship with a tree), have met up and are now activists trying to save the old natural growth forests in the western US. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’m not going to share any more details of the plot, other than I am fascinated by the work of Dr. Patricia Westerford,  one of the characters in the book. She studies mechanisms of communication between trees, and in particular, is studying Douglas firs in one part of the book. Plants are crafty organisms that use lots of mechanisms to respond to the environment. They use hormones to control their growth, and they are able to track the hours of the day (or maybe it actually is the night) so that they bloom at the right time of the year. Of course they are communicating with each other!!

Look at these female cones on my Douglas fir tree. They are kind of goofy looking with those bracts hanging out between the cone scales. They have the only cone like that in our nearby Rocky Mountains. The needles are strange too… they have little tiny stems on them like leaves.

I have a Douglas fir growing in my backyard where I have been babying it for a few years as the honey locust tree next door is outgrowing it and putting it into shade. Poor Douglas fir. They are kind of misfits in our mountains, having no other close relative, aren’t really fir trees at all, and are notorious for pulling a lot of water from the ground. When I attended a forestry workshop in the Denver montaine watershed I was told that the only good Doug is a dead Doug… hey, Dougs need love too! Some of the trees in that forest are turned to sawdust by enomous grinding machines to both thin the forest and reduce water use; some of those thinned trees are evidently Dougs. Douglas firs are really important timber trees, which is why they are in this book, but they aren’t beloved by the biologists who are making sure Denver has enough water in the coming year. Luckily for my Doug I am hiding it from the Denver water board and giving it all the water that it wants. Sadly, it is the only one around and has no other Doug tree to talk to. I wonder if the honey locust ever chats with it?

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

Okay, I just had to show off the monster orchid again. I feel happy every time I see this big guy. This is why it is good to garden. 🙂

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.