Knitting Jonesy: Yarns and Swatching

This is Jonesy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is what I ended up with.

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

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

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

The monster orchid has opened a bloom!!

MacKenzie Speaks: MacKnitzie takes a road trip.

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

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

Blasting Through the Doldrums

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bye, doldrums.

I’m off to shovel some more snow.

The Saturday Update: Week 6

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

Knitting

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

Look at this face!!

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

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

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

Garden

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

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

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

See, this orchid is just a monster!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MacKenzie Speaks: Look!!

Hi I’m MacKenzie.

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

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

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

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

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

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.