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.

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: Snow, Yarn, Orchids, Quilt

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

We have been really busy lately.

The Mother of Cats has been going crazy lately. Busy, busy, busy all of the time, and she is pretty much ignoring me. Okay, she does remember to pet me and feed me and give me cookies (she CRUSHES them up between two spoons before I get them), but is she letting me go outside into the yard any more? NO! She is not! She says it is too cold now.

Oh. That’s why the floor of the garage has been hurting my feet. It is cold. Also, for some reason the outside has turned all white.

The white stuff is also covering up the Thanksgiving wreath that the Mother of Cats and I put on the door. Okay, she put it on the door while I hunted for trouble in the front yard; we still did it together.

Anyway, we are hanging out inside all of the time now, and the Mother of Cats has just been going crazy getting lots of little things done. I mean, literally, that she has been knitting all of these little things that are too small for me to sleep on. Look at this!!

The Mother of Cats has been mass producing little items that she can carry around with her. Last week she lined them all up and did all of the finishing work. I hung out and helped her with all of the little ends of yarn. She really likes that!!
By the end of the morning all three of the mitts were finished.
And she sewed up these fun wash cloths. Did she give me these washcloths and mitts for my bed? No! She did not. They have all been packed away where I can’t get to them. Why does the Mother of Cats do these things?

You would think that the Mother of Cats would have calmed down after getting all of these little objects knitted, wouldn’t you? Instead of settling down to pet me for the rest of the afternoon she went digging in the stash to find more scraps of yarn to make another pair of mitts.

The new mitts had three different colors of yarn. What is wrong with the Mother of Cats?!! Three different balls of yarn at once?

I helped her with all of the yarns while she worked, and really kept an eye on her work. She did take the yarn off of the needles and ripped back last night… Wow! So much yarn! She let me take care of it for her while she knitted it back in. Sometimes the Mother of Cats can be kind of fun.

Tonight we got the mitts done. Look at what a good job I did with the Mother of Cats!!

Between knitting sessions the Mother of Cats and I got the sewing room cleaned up and started working on some of the many quilts that have been waiting (and waiting and waiting) for her to work on them. While it snowed this week we started quilting one of the projects.

What do you think of this? The Mother of Cats works at the machine while I sleep on the cutting table under the grow light for the plants. I love the grow light!! Why doesn’t the Mother of Cats have one of those over my cat bed? Why does she treat the plants better than me?
The Mother of Cats loves her plants almost as much as me! This plant has responded by growing stems that the Mother of Cats says will have blooms someday. Whatever. It’s not like I can eat the blooms, so who cares?

The Mother of Cats has been spending a lot of time fussing over her plants. She makes sure they get lots of light, orchid food and she even ran the window fan in the late summer to make the cold air come into the room with the plants. I don’t like the window fan, but does the Mother of Cats pay attention to my needs the way she should? NO!!

So this has been the last two weeks. Cold white stuff. Lots of little bitty knitted things that I don’t get to play with. Orchids that are no good to me that the Mother of Cats makes a big fuss about. Sewing in the evenings when the I should be getting major attention. It’s amazing that I have survived with all of this going on while my needs were being neglected.

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some (crushed) cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • MacKenzie is getting better but I’m keeping him on jaw rest, which is why he is getting crushed cookies and I’m moving him to wet food. He won’t eat his food unless I put crushed cookies on it…
  • When the cold weather arrived a few weeks ago I became consumed with the the need for more fingerless mitts and arm warmers/wristers. I dug around in the yarn stash to find leftovers from socks, and there were so many cute yarns that I just began mass producing mitt after mitt. They are the perfect carry-along in the car and I am finding them easy to do while listening to audiobooks in the evenings. I’m having fun, and if I need a quick gift in the future I am all set!!
  • I have 6 babied orchid plants. I heard that the trick to make them bloom was to subject them to significant swings in temperature in the fall; I live in Colorado where temperature extremes are a norm so I decided to try to make it happed for the plants. I closed off the sewing/orchid room overnight for a couple of weeks with the window fan blowing in cold air and this week I discovered that 5 of the 6 plants are going to bloom. Woohoo!! One plant is putting up 4 blooming stems, and I can see at least 2 stems starting on two other plants. Success!!
  • The washcloth is the Almost Lost Wash Cloth, and is one of my favorites for Christmas giving.
  • The mitt pattern is a simple one that I’ve developed over the years that works well for my cold Raynaud’s hands. I’m working myself up to publishing the pattern in a future post. Please let me know if anyone is interested.

The Yarn Destash Project: End of April Report

What a month it has been. I started April feeling pretty cocky and confident that I was smashing the yarn destash resolution; I had used up 21 skeins of yarn in just three months. I was a knitting machine and I was going to polish off this destash project lickity-split before the end of summer. Look at me! All hail the Midnight Knitter and her flashing knitting needles.

Then there was a slip: the Interweave Yarn Fest. I lost control. I bought yarn. I bought 11 skeins of yarn…

So the yarn total on my little Excel spreadsheet was reset down to 10 skeins. Boohoo! 10 skeins. Whatever. I am a knitting machine. I will catch up. I have this!

Behold my progress this month:

The minute I saw the Geology Socks pattern I wanted to make them. As in… I MUST HAVE THESE SOCKS IMMEDIATELY!! I cast on a total of three times to make the socks, ripping out twice to change the pattern and/or yarn until I had exactly what I wanted. I kept pulling the socks onto my arm so I could admire the pattern. What a shame to hide this great pattern under my pants… behold the Geology Mitts! My project notes are here. Total yarn used: 1/2 skein.
I spent a lot of time cranking out this Sea Swell Shawl, but it was time well spent as this shawl with its perfect drape will be a huge workhorse for me. My project notes are here. Total skeins used: 2 skeins (the lightest grey doesn’t count towards the destash as I bought it this year for this project.)
I’ve been wanting to make a stack of new dish cloths to use in the kitchen with my handwoven dish towels. This month I produced a small stack of Almost Lost Washcloths.  Total skeins used: 2 skeins.

 

I’m also continuing to make progress on my V-Neck Boxy. I’m working my way down the body and have another 6 inches to go before I bind off. This sweater was a little slow to start because of the shoulder and neck shaping, but now that I’m knitting stockinette in the round I am cruising along. Total skeins used so far: 2 skeins.

So there it is: after a month of knitting I have boosted the destash number to 16.5 skeins. I have two projects currently on my needles (the V-Neck Boxy and a pair of simple socks), so it is time to reorganize and get new projects lined up. Oh boy! Time to wind the yarn for my Nordiska sweater! I’m thinking about a new Sea Swell shawl. I want to make some grey and red socks to match my new shoes… I pulled an alpaca fleece from the garage into the house with the thought of spinning a nice rosy brown alpaca yarn to knit with some mohair I bought at Interweave Yarn Fest. I’m energized and gearing up for May: let the knitting begin!

One more little item before I sign off… today is May Day. When I was a child I would hand flowers on the doorknobs of my friends and neighbors. Today I offer up the current state of my blooming orchid.

Happy May Day everyone!

Orchids and Hot Mess Knitting

Today is bright, sunny and warm. No doubt about it, spring is here. Outdoors it is still too soon to plant as there is still another month of possible cold snaps and plant-crushing snow ahead of us, but inside the plants have gotten the message.

I’ve been monitoring the growth of this flowering stem on an orchid for weeks. Yesterday the buds finally opened. So happy with this bloom color!

I bought grow lights last fall and moved some of my favorite plants and roses back indoors for the winter. The plants eventually quit blooming and some of the roses are engaged in mildew/spider mite wars. So far those roses are winning, but there have been some close calls and trips to the garage for treatment and isolation. The orchids, however, have just flourished under the new lights and my jade plants put out so much new growth that I took cuttings and started several new pots. Anyway, never mind the jade plants… look at what happened with the orchids!

Most of my orchids have grown several new leaves over the winter and put out numerous new roots. Really, so many roots that I’m not quite sure what to make of it. Should I put new pots under these roots? Put the orchid into a bigger pot? Transfer it to a huge container and wait to see what happens?

I need to do some internet searches to see if I can propagate new orchids from those roots… I look at this plant and wonder if I should stop feeding it orchid food. Strangely, the orchid that is blooming has the worst growth of the bunch; maybe all of its energy is going into the blooms? Right now it is an orchid mystery and I’m just enjoying the blooms.

The rest of my time has been spent nursing an infected ankle (No, I don’t want to talk about it! Bad ankle, bad!) and knitting away endlessly on projects that never seem to get done. I keep adding new balls of yarn, knitting away, but they are still not done. I am drowning in yarn here, people!

I’ve been saving this Dark Side of the Moon (Alexandra’s Crafts) for a year looking for the right project. A little concerned about how the purple flashes of color will appear I started the V-Neck Boxy (Joji Locatelli) a couple of weeks ago. Hey, it’s best to not overthink these things. Just cast on and do it. What can go wrong? If the purple pools I will just alternate skeins or rip it out … I excel at ripping things out!
It’s a keeper!! I’m not alternating skeins at all and am happy with the effect of the purple flashes. My project notes are here.

I’m now below the V-neck and knitting like crazy on the body. This sweater is really, well, boxy, and each round of knitting takes forever, and the length is growing, but slowly. Once I was below the increases and shaping for the upper part of the sweater it became “knit until you have the length you want” knitting. I keep knitting, and knitting, and knitting, and knitting… you get the idea. I put it aside to hibernate for a little while.

Socks! Let’s do some quickly rewarding socks, I told MacKenzie.

I’ll do these cute Geology Socks with the left over fingering yarn from my Sturgill sweater! Won’t these look cute? MacKenzie agreed that it was a good plan, ate some cookies, and headed off to bed.

Umm… there is a reason they say you should read the pattern carefully before you start knitting. I skimmed the pattern text, found the pattern chart for the size sock that I wanted, and got to work. I love charts! Oops. This chart is not designed to be knit exactly as presented as the pattern is designed to allow individual customization; lots of customization. I ended up ripping out the sock twice! Ugh. The yarn and needles went into time out right next to the V-Neck Boxy sweater.

Looking for instant gratification I started this Sea Swell Shawl using yarn in the colorways of the Sturgill sweater.

Yep. Not sure what I was thinking here beyond that this was a stunning design and I wanted it right this second!! This is another endless knitting project. The balls slowly shrank as I knitted on and on and on in garter stitch broken every now and then with lace. I worried about the yardage of the third color, the wine-colored yarn, as part of it had been used to knit the Sturgill sweater… that ball is only 75 grams of yarn, and I used almost all of the first ball of yarn before the switch to pink occurred. Ugh! Maybe I should use the dark grey from the Geology socks for the third color and make the socks out of the wine colored yarn…

Last night I FINIALLY got to the part of the shawl where you start the third color and I used the dark grey from the socks. It will be great. It will go with more things in my wardrobe. I won’t have to stress about running out of yarn. My project notes are here.
Sitting in bed with MacKenzie and listening to an audiobook I cast on and started the Geology Socks for the third time using the wine colored yarn. Fast knitting as I have now memorized the charts and as everyone knows, the third time is the charm. My project notes are here.

After agonizing over yarn choices, amounts of yarn, and in what combinations I should be using them, I am finally happy with what is coming off of my needles. The only trouble is… there is so much endless knitting ahead of me. Endless knitting broken up only be the little charts of the geology socks.

I’m dreaming of a new project. Hmm… maybe I should go stash shopping. I could cast on a couple of new projects… Nordiska is calling me… I saw a fast cowl pattern at the LYS…

Hot mess knitting is pretty exhausting, but for me it may be an essential part of my creative process. Eventually I will have finished projects. Stay tuned, it is sure to happen someday soon.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone. If there is a holiday celebration for you this weekend, I do hope that it is a good one.