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!!

The Saturday Update: Week 8

Knitting

Have I mentioned that it has been snowing a lot here in Colorado? I have several projects on the needles at the moment, but my feet were cold Sunday night and I needed more bed socks of the cashmere persuasion right away! I hit the stash, found a nice cashmere blend yarn from Western Sky Knits, and hunted around for the pattern I used for a previous pair. Oh, yeah. The pattern is in a book that is full of wonderful socks: Socktopus by Alice Yu, and the pattern is Om Shanti Bed Socks. Once I had the pattern, book and needles located I cast on and got to business; two days later I had my socks!

How cute are these? The socks are knit toe up with an unusual treatment that allows the perfect shaping in garter stitch that is repeated in the heel. I like the lace even though it messed with my head while I was doing it, and I added the garter to the top of the sock to make things look even. My project notes are here.

Do you like the slight haziness of the picture? That’s because I had a big, fat fingerprint across the lens of the camera on my phone. Sigh. Anyway, you can almost imagine how comfy they are on my feet just looking at them, right? The lace makes the sock hug my foot and they are just perfect to keep them warm while I try to fall asleep. These socks are knit on a larger gauge then you would usually use for a sock, so they aren’t tough, but they are comfy!! I couldn’t help but drool over all of the nice patterns in the Socktopus book and I’m thinking that I will be making some more socks from the book before it goes back on the shelf.

MacKenzie really likes the mohair and sock yarn mix that is making the fabric of the sweater.

MacKenzie and I continued to work on the Pebble Tunic and made some good progress on that too this week. The construction is top down in an interesting fashion; the back is completed to the bottom of the armhole, then the front is knit to match. I’m now on the front knitting down to the point where the two sides will be attached to knit in the round. MacKenzie is not impressed… he just wants the sweater to be a blankie for him while he naps.

Garden

This must be starting to become a little old for all of you… I have some orchids blooming. I’m really kind of childish about them; every morning I rush to the craft room to see if I have a new bloom. Anyway, the miniature orchid opened its first bloom this week and the monster orchid has buds forming that are just… well… they are monstrous! I can’t wait for one of them to open… any day now!

Here are the four bloomers. 
Here is the new bloomer. It is my smallest plant and the magenta bloom is a perfect addition to the garden. I’m not sure, but there appear to be two more stems emerging from the main stem holding the buds below this flower. Yay! Blooms all spring!!

As soon as the monster orchid blooms I will post the picture!

Books

I finished The Water Dancer last night and I’m still thinking about the book. Sometimes I’m not sure I liked it all that much, but at other moments I am sure that it may be one of the most impactful books I’ve read in a while. It is a book about slavery, freedom, the eternal harm of broken families, and the power of purpose and mission. There is cruelty and loss. There is magic. There is the peace of freedom and reunions. There is an enduring question: what is a good life? When I got to the end I thought: this is the end?! Later on I decided that the ending was actually pretty darn good. This book will stay with me for quite some time.

This is Black History Month here in the US, which contributed to my choice to read this book right now.

The plantation in this book is set in Virginia on the eastern coast of the United States. The plantation in this book is dying as the soil is exhausted and the crops are no longer productive enough to maintain operations; owners are going west to the state of Tennessee, and slaves are sold or relocated as operations ship to the new state. Tennessee. My dad’s family was from Tennessee, and I know that my dad was born and raised on a farm. There was that story about the runt piglet that he made a house pet out of, and the time the cow came down with rabies… Out of idle curiosity I googled my maiden name and the word “plantation” to see if I would get a hit.

Suddenly Black History Month took on a whole new meaning for me. There was a return on the search that told me that there was, indeed, a plantation that carried my maiden last name. It is located in North Carolina just below the border with Virginia, the location of this book. There are testimonials from slaves with my last name in the National Archives. There is a town that has my last name, and it is located in an area of North Carolina with a lot of Dutch influence, which matches my maiden last name’s history. I know that my father’s family relocated to Tennessee from an eastern seaboard state. The history of America that is in this book is part of my history, too.

Suddenly the book had a lot more meaning for me. I am crushed. I am full of sorrow. I am only responsible for the actions of my own life, but I am burdened now by the thought that the pain, struggle, need for autonomy, and recognition of personhood that these slaves lived is also part of my history. I was raised in another part of the United States, California, and live and worked in integrated communities, but my roots on my father’s side go back to this.

I mentioned The Water Dancer last month to another member of my book club as one we might want to read. “Oh,” she said dismissively, looking at the book, “I think we should only read books by authors whose names we can pronounce.” Seriously? Ta-Nehisi Coates is not a big deal. Just sound it out!! You should have a last name like mine, or a chronic disease that no one can pronounce (scleroderma). Whatever. I took her comment to be racist or xenophobic.

I let it go. I wish now I had not. I’m glad I read the book, I’m not happy that I did that google search, but now I’m on the hunt for the story of my family in America. Ancestry.com, here I come.

The Saturday Update: Week 7

We have had so many snowstorms this month I have lost count. We seem to get one every few days…maybe the one coming next Monday will be storm number 6? Anyway, there has been lots of shoveling and knitting going on this week.

Knitting

With all of the snow I have really been focusing on making more of the thick snowshoe socks that keep my feet warm and cushioned when I go outside. MacKenzie was really involved in the production of these socks this week so he will be blogging soon about them, but let me say that we are just cranking them out. I also worked on some mitts to give away to other members of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Scleroderma Foundation. These mitts aren’t all that much as I’m making them out of leftover sock yarn that has been piling up in the stash, but I hope that they will be as helpful to other people as they are to me. Here’s the two pairs that I finished this week.

These mitts are made using the pattern that I developed that you can find here in an earlier post: Sweet & Simple Vanilla Mitts. Feel free to make yourself a pair if you’d like. 🙂

Since I was occupied with socks and mitts I didn’t get as much done on the Pebble Tunic sweater by Joji Locatelli as I thought I would, but I am making some progress.

I’m coming down the back of the sweater. Later on I start the front and then the parts are connected and knit top down in one piece. The pattern is here, and my project notes, such as they are, can be found here.
Garden

I bought myself some cute, cute, cute miniature ornamental kale plants this week. Look at these!!

Seriously, what could be more cute than this?

I bought two more to put into my little greenhouse that I keep on the kitchen window shelf. These just make me happy, and they were super, duper cheap, too, at $4 a plant. Total score for the kitchen garden!!

See what I mean?

I thought that I could get all three plants into the greenhouse, but I also bought the little clay pots and they made the fit for three plants too tight. I like the clay pots, so these two will have to hang out in the greenhouse by themselves.

My rose gold orchid produced the second bloom, and it looks like several others are ready to pop open.
The purple orchid is a little underwhelming, but I’m sure it is doing the best that it can.

The monster orchid is still looking good and the buds are a little bigger, but I won’t see the bloom for another week or two I think. The buds aren’t producing any color, so there is a chance that these will be very light colored flowers. It’s an orchid adventure!

Books

I’m still slowly reading The Water Dancer. It’s good, and it is making me think a lot, but the performer’s voice is rather soothing and I do go to sleep within a half hour . Hey, that is a good thing, too, right?

There is another snowstorm coming next week so I should make more progress on the audiobook and my sweater.

Have a great week, everyone!!

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.

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.

The Saturday Update: Week 1

Have you ever gotten to the end of a week and wondered what you had accomplished? Yep. Me, too. As a New Year’s resolution I’m going to try to do a weekly update every Saturday about all the little things that were going on that week. You know, all the stuff that has to do with yarn, books and my garden. Here’s the first update.

Knitting

I just made the best socks in the world! I’m not kidding, these babies are just great! I’m talking about the Snowshoe Socks by Emily Foden that I knit this week. What is nice about them, you ask? I’m so glad you wanted to know: they are heavier socks that are knit by holding two fingering strands together. One strand needs to have nylon in it, but the other can be a softer yarn like 100% superwash merino or maybe something with cashmere. I have a lot of yarns that I bought to feed the stash thinking that they would be great shawls or whatever someday. Right. Those yarns are still lurking in the stash laughing at me. I can now use them to make socks when combined with a tough sock yarn. Together the two fingering yarns make a marled DK yarn that blends through the sock as you swap in different fingering yarns. This can be a stash buster or you can just use 2 yarns that you love marled together. The pattern is simple and pretty easy to adapt if you need to. My project notes for this sock are here.

The navy and gold are yarns that I had left over from previous sweater projects. I hate yarn chicken, so I always have an extra skein of yarn. The light blue mix is yarn that I bought to feed the stash. A year later I’m still wondering what to use it with. Since it went with the other two yarns I decided to use it as the main yarn with the other two jumping in and out.

The gold yarn has some cashmere and both the navy and the gold contain nylon. The light blue multi is 100% superwash merino and could never survive as a sock on its own. This strategy allows it to become a sock by hanging out with the other two yarns. It’s kind of mysterious, but the resulting fabric is much better than a sock just knit from DK yarn. I think that the twisting of the two sock yarns plus the added nylon makes the difference as you knit.

Look at the cool fabric that is being produced by these three yarns in combo.
Here they are all finished up: hearty socks that are amazingly warm, soft and kind to my feet right when I need a little help to get through the winter.
In spite of gloves with mittens over them I lost circulation in my hands and feet while trying to get into the grocery store… this is Raynaud’s.

What’s up with my feet? Ugh. Where to start. I haven’t made too big a deal about it, but I’ve been struggling to walk for a year now and finally have transitioned from limping, to using crutches, to mastering a snazzy purple cane. The opposite foot to the bad hip has developed a slew of problems of its own and now needs to be babied also. My toes hurt and need to be cushioned. The fat  that people usually have on the bottoms of their feet is now gone on mine (thanks, scleroderma) and I’m walking on the bones of the outer side of my foot and they are not happy campers at all. I’m developing benign tumors in the big tendon on the bottom of my foot (the plantar fascia), and to top it all off I struggle with loss of circulation in my toes because of the cold. Not to worry, people, I am a knitter and these socks are going to be big helps for me in the weeks and months of cold weather to come. Bring it, winter, I am ready for you!! Note to self: knit more of these socks!!

Garden
The first orchid plant has started blooming! This is a plant that puts out lots of smaller blooms. Four more orchid plants have growing stems and those flowers will be larger. I can’t wait to see what the color of the blooms will be: you’d think I’d keep notes, but no, this is going to be an adventure. I’m pretty sure I’m in for purples and rosy gold blooms.

All of the orchids are thriving under the indoor growth lights that I bought for them last winter and I gave them more fertilizer and a spritz of Neem oil this week. I felt sorry for a couple of little roses that were still in the garage and brought them into the indoor garden. To thank me for taking pity on them they gifted me with white fly: those brats!! Everyone got sprayed with Neem and we’ll see if that does the trick.

Books
This is why my socks were completed in three days flat!!

I’m trying to listen to audiobooks more while knitting, and I started this one early in the week while knitting in bed with MacKenzie. Good lord! Don’t start this book if you don’t have time to put your life on hold while obsessively reading (or listening) it from cover to cover. It’s compelling. It’s horrifying. It’s best described as a psychological thriller that involves a cult-like psychopath, abused and abandoned children, a murder mystery, lies, poisons, inheritances, families lost and found, or a take home lesson to not let strangers come live with you. Okay, this is flat out unbelievable and more than a little disturbing, and the characters aren’t all that likable, but you can’t help feeling like, maybe, this could actually happen… I read this book for my book club and I can’t wait to go talk to some other people about it.

I’ve been thinking of Australia this week. If you are there, please stay safe. I feel awful complaining about cold while you are suffering through extreme heat and fire behavior. Hugs to all of you.