The Yarn Warrior

Last night I knitted like crazy and got my Reyna shawl (by Noora Laivola) finished. I wet blocked it overnight (hoping that sleeping kitties won’t notice it…) and this morning I took it outside to the garden swing to finish it up while I was watering the lawn. Of course my cat MacKenzie couldn’t resist helping out.

Cat chomping shawl
Oops! I didn’t realize he was hanging out under the swing… At least he’s predictable in that he never missed an opportunity to chomp!
Shawl in tree
Here it is rescued from the cat. Isn’t it a fun mix of garter stitch and mesh? Here are my project notes on Ravelry.

This shawl was a fast and easy project, but I learned a lot of new things while working on it and it led to some new insights. After all, while I love to knit, I really am more driven to play with new yarns, patterns and ideas more than I need a new shawl (or pair of socks for that matter). Every new project is an opportunity to learn something new!

I first selected this pattern because I had a skein of wickedly soft and colorful yarn in my stash. I knew that the colors would go with everything in my wardrobe, but there were so many of them in the skein that I needed a way to show them off without nasty pooling or something that looked muddy.

Yarn
This is Zen Yarn Garden’s Serenity 20 in the colorway Confetti. See what I mean about the colors? 
Closeup of Shawl
I knew that garter stitch plays well with multicolored yarn, and I was hoping that the mesh would break the colors up a little more and help each one shine. Mission accomplished! The yarn looks really different in the two sections of the shawl and the colors each stand out.

There are YO stitches to each side of the center stitch in the garter section. Hard to see aren’t they? That’s because they are hidden by knitting in the back loop of the YO on the wrong side row. Who knew? By hiding the YO stitches the garter stripe stands out better between the mesh segments.

I also noticed a difference in the mesh. Normally K2tog stitches slant to the right. In the mesh section of the shawl the K2tog creates a slant that goes to the left. Check it out!

Mesh stitch
See the left slant? This was knit by [yo, K2tog] stitches that repeated every other row (all stitches purled on the wrong side).
Mesh closeup
The right slanting mesh was created by the opposite type of decrease stitch: [yo, ssk] repeated across the row. Once again the stitches on the wrong side were purled. The designer balanced the direction of the mesh slant around the center stitch of the shawl. Cool! 
As I was knitting along I realized that my ball of yarn was starting the shrink a little faster than I wanted it to. Yikes! How can I be sure to use as much as possible while leaving enough for the last three garter rows and then the BO?  Well, this is when a yarn warrior really digs in and takes control.

Row Tracker
Look at what Noora gave us in the pattern! Wow, isn’t this a nice idea. In fact, it made me think that all patterns should be organized as a table with the rows, stitch count, the pattern, weight of the yarn and a place to make tally marks. I mean, why does the entire thing have to be written out? See how I started tracking how much my ball of yarn weighed every 4 rows? I decided to switch to the last 4 rows as soon as I had only 8 grams left. (8 rows of the mesh section were skipped)
Yarn on balance.
This is how many grams of yarn I had left over after binding off.

See, it isn’t about the final object (OK, it is a little). It’s about being a YARN WARRIOR!! Capture the learning and master the craft. Be at one with the cashmere and bond with your fellow knitters.

Isn’t this why we all do it?

 

 

Hello July: Culebra Shawlette and Bee Books

It’s July! The garden is blooming, it’s a wonderful time to hit the great outdoors, and the warm afternoons are prime knitting and reading windows of opportunity. I have been spending the this week working on a fun shawlette from Bijou Basin called Culebra.

Tibetan Dream Yarn.
I loved this yarn when I first found it at the Interweave Yarn Fest. It’s 85% Yak and 15% Nylon. 
Shawl
As soon as I wound the yarn my enthusiasm waned a little. It didn’t look very nice anymore. Once I started knitting it I was in love with the yarn again. I had to cast on three times to get the correct number of stitches (long tail cast-on issue; somehow I never learn…) and the yarn really bloomed and softened as I worked with it.
Lace Close-up
Here’s a close-up of the lace design on the shawl. Fun, huh. The yarn is Tibetan Dream yarn by Bijou Basin. Here’s my project notes on Ravelry.

I finally finished the lace portion of the shawl this afternoon and now the rest will be garter stitch short rows from the middle of the shawl out which will create a shallow crescent shape. The shawl is knitted from the lace edge up towards the top. Lots of stitches to cast on, but then the knitting was easy. Now that I am out of the lace I am definitely in the knitting home stretch on this one.

My garden is blooming and looking much better than it did a couple of weeks ago, but it is absolutely lacking in humming. I haven’t seen very many bees hanging around even though I have lots of flowers that they like. Look at what is happening in my strawberry patch:

Strawberry plants
See all those luscious baby strawberries? Right. Neither do I. These plants have bloomed like crazy, but no berries. Dang it!

I miss the bees this year. I used to show a NOVA video to my biology classes about bees that they really liked a lot called Tales from the Hive. Bees are just amazing; a few years ago I entered a drawing for a bee hive for my classroom and was just crushed when I didn’t win. (Sounds strange, but this is a thing. The hive would have been set up in my room’s greenhouse and the bees would have traveled outside through a Plexiglas tube.) Years ago I had a bumblebee nest in the garden and they were the cutest things… Ok, there was one little incident with the cat, but other then that it was all peaceful. 🙂

Bee Books! I am behind in my reading resolution for the year. It’s the first of July, and I am now on book #44. I should be done with book #50, so I need to pick up the pace a little. As it turns out I have a stash of books (almost as big as the yarn stash) that includes a number of titles that involve bees. Hey. That’s the ticket. I’ll read bee books. Here’s the list.

A Sting in the Tale
This is the book that I’m reading right now. It’s about bumblebees. the kind of bee that used to live in an underground nest in my garden.  I hadn’t really thought about them as being different from honey bees, but they are.

The other books in my little stack are:

This is actually an eclectic mix of genres in this little collection of bee books. Some are informative non-fiction books, one is a mystery, a couple look to be great little novels. Perfect reading for the high days of summer.

 

Wednesday Update: Shawl, Sock, and a Rant

What a beautiful morning! My backyard filled with birdsong early and the cats began clamoring to be let out, so I got up, made a latte, and joined everyone in the early sunshine. It’s too soon for flowers (except dandelions which are now in full bloom!), but the promise of summer is there for the taking. My trees are blooming and there are little buds where the leaves are getting ready to burst out. It’s hard to not get a little excited.

I took advantage of the light to get knitting pictures. I finished a shawl over the weekend. Here it is:

Shawl.
I made a simple garter stitch and eyelet shawl from a skein of wildly painted yarn. You can visit my Ravelry project page for more info on the shawl here.
Close up of shawl.
Here’s a close-up of the tip. There was a lot of color in the yarn!
Shawl on denim.
Here’s the shawl on denim. The colors look great combined with several things in my wardrobe. Yeah!!
Amazing yarn.
The original skein of yarn. It was a little intimidating with that “becoming art” label, but I’m happy with the product.

Now that I have one of the two shawls that I am working on finished I felt that it was OK to cast on the April 2015 sock. Here she is!

Sock
I am so happy with the way the grey is calming down the extreme wildness of the hot pink painted yarn. The pattern is great for television knitting, too, so I made a lot of progress last night.

It was a really great week for me knitting-wise. I even coated myself with the best sunscreen on the market (SPF 60!!) and went out and planted my new roses. There were a lot of positives for the week except for… my scleroderma decided to kick my butt. My leg muscles now hurt, my knees have become swollen, red and warm to the touch, and I’m dizzy in the mornings. I have edema in my arms and legs. What is up with that!! My rheumatologist gave me some drug information to read (I get to pick which drug I prefer of two possibilities. This sounds pretty good, but during the week I realized that these are chemo drugs that I will be taking at a lower dose than cancer patients get. Bummer!) Still, I was having a happy week and being positive until one of my neighbors stopped by to talk to me while I was planting the roses, and he mentioned that if I would get out more often to exercise and get sunshine I would “get well”.

He meant to be encouraging. He’s really not all that bright; he doesn’t get “chronic”. I was polite, but once I got back into the house I was ready to rant. Don’t tell chronically ill people that they can “get well” if they just change their diet, get more exercise, meditate, get off gluten, take vitamins, or whatever else occurs to you. It’s almost like suggesting that it is their fault that they are sick. I know that while it is human nature to want people to “get well”; it is insensitive to suggest that this is within the power of the person who is dealing with a disabling, progressive and incurable disease.

On the other hand, I need to pick a drug. Once I calmed down I e-mailed the doctor to let him know that CellCept sounded pretty good. Some scleroderma patients in forums are claiming to be in remission. That sounds pretty good to me. The downside? No more sunshine for me until I’m off again.

Midnight gardening? I can do it!!

 

WIP Wednesday: Edith’s Secret Update

Sunday my current shawl project failed a reality check big time, got frogged and then I rebooted the entire project with new yarn. One of the factors in the first effort’s meltdown was the extreme attentiveness (and shedding) of the cats, and between one things and another I was almost 30 stitches off the stitch count. Since Sunday the weather has been great, the cats are outside most of the day and then sleep in the afternoons when they come back in. Prime knitting weather!!

Sleeping Cats
Here they are all tuckered out after spending the morning on a bug hunt outdoors. Guess who is the problem child leaving his fur all over the house?

I’m still working on Edith’s Secret by Kristen Ashbaugh-Helmreich, and have now knitted through the first three clues and I am still exactly on the correct stitch count!!! Yeah! I have made a little chart for myself to track the colors and increases, and have been counting stitches every 4th row, and it has paid off big time.

Shawl
Here is the shawl the way it was Sunday at the end of Clue #1. 
Stripes
I am now at the end of Clue #3. You can see that right now it is all stripes that become more narrow as you go down the shawl. This is the end of the stripes; tomorrow I start knitting something called “diamond tweed” and then it is on to lace. Gosh, I love lace.
Stripes and Beads
Lace means beads. What do you guys think about these beads? I’m thinking of mixing the two colors together and then putting them into the lace (which will be the grey yarn) randomly color-wise.

Edith’s Secret is a shawl in 7 parts (clues). Tomorrow I’m going to my favorite yarn shop for knitting group and I hope to get another section of the shawl done. Woo-hoo! I just love it when a knitting project comes together.

 

 

 

 

Wednesday Update: I am now officially out of control!

What can I say. I started a shawl that I really, really was obsessing over. I had some nice variegated yarn that I struggled to match with another yarn. I finally settled on a beautiful grey and started knitting on it. But… I am a big sucking baby about struggling with the color changes. I mean, you have to cut the yarn and attach another one. There are ends to knit in. It is so interfering with my zen of knitting.

Shawl
This is my Edith’s Secret shawl that was the Downton Abbey MKAL from Jimmy Bean’s Wools this year.

So, in a fit of “whatever” (did you read that with an internal “Valley Girl” voice? That’s the spirit!) I cast on two more projects that would be fast, portable, and involving NO yarn color changes. (See, I am being a baby about this). Here they are:

Fingerless mitts
I’m making these simple finger-less mitts to match my latest Hitchhiker shawl. The cashmere blend yarn is the leftover from the shawl, and I’m using plain stockinette as I have learned it shows off the yarn well.
Socks
The BFF socks that I made for the March New Year’s resolution turned out so cute that I cast on again with this cashmere blend yarn from MJ Yarns. March is Colorado’s snowiest month, and another pair of socks always comes in handy, right?

I now have three projects going and very little progress to show for any of them.

Whatever. It’s all about the zen, anyway. 🙂

Here are the links to my project notes for each of these.

Shawl: Edith’s Secret

Socks: Fire Dragon BFF

Finger-less MItts: Serendipitous Phenomenology Mitts This is a pattern that I’m writing down as I go in the Ravelry project page.

 

FO: Cat Supervised Hitchhiker

I really like my cat MacKenzie. I found him one day standing in a cage at PetsMart. The previous owner had walked in and surrendered him a few weeks previously. You guessed it: he was a bad boy. He was such an obviously intelligent cat I decided to take a chance and brought him home with me.

Cat
Here he is out in the garden. He doesn’t look like a slasher of walls, furniture and curtains, does he? On this day he chased a poor garter snake all over the garden until I rescued it.

Oh dear, there was not a surface of the house that he didn’t try to sharpen his claws on. He knocked things down and broke china. He tore up my plants, dragged his toys all over the house, and was in general an instrument of mayhem. I bought more toys, got scratching posts for almost every room of the house, adopted a second cat to be a companion to him, and gave him yarn to play with. I wired the backyard fence with an “invisible fence” wire and trained him to not jump out of the yard so he could run laps out there. He became a happy cat. My walls and furniture were safe again; he now loved all things wool.

Now that I’m retired and he is older, he is my constant companion and participates a little more in my craft activities than I would like. As usual, he was involved in my latest Hitchhiker.

Knitting with Mac
Knitting outside with Mackenie. He’s too big to fit on my lap, so he covers my legs while I knit.

Yep. That’s why all my knitted gifts come with love and cat hair. The weather was really nice again today so I ate lunch outside and knitted the Hitchhiker for a couple of hours until it was done. Snow is coming Sunday, so I decided to enjoy the nice weather and get some sunshine while I could.

 

Finished Hitchhiker
Here it is! This yarn is Noro Taiyo sock yarn. It’s half cotton, so this will be good for warmer days. The shadow  is MacKenzie hovering to the side; he wants to lay down on the shawl, of course.
Hitchhiker
and this is what it looks like on me.  Can you see some cat hair on it? 🙂
Cat and computer.
Now I’m writing this blog with a tuckered out MacKenzie sleeping on my legs. All that supervision is just exhausting, I guess. 

I’m thinking that maybe I should make him a wool cat bed.  He would enjoy helping with that!

FO: One Yummy Shawl

It’s done, it’s done, it is done! I knitted on this all yesterday afternoon while binge watching this season’s Parenthood episodes, and finally finished it around dinner time. It was wet blocked this morning and dried outside in the breeze.

I tried getting my cat MacKenzie to model it for me with less than satisfactory results. At least you can see how nicely the grey and black in his coat goes with the shawl’s colors. 🙂 My fallback model is the maple tree, which does let you see the rows of eyelets pretty well.

Shawl in Tree
I used an online random number generator set with the digits 2 and 8 as the limits to determine the number of garter stitch ridges between rows of eyelet.

This is what it looks like on me. The color is really rich looking, and the 20% cashmere makes it nice around my neck.

Author wearing shawl.
Soft, warm and looking forward to the next cold snap. The reds, browns and grey in this yarn will make it a real work horse for me.

I know that I shouldn’t have done it, but I also cast on TWO new Hitchhiker shawls this afternoon. Really, I just wanted to see what the yarns would look like in the bias knitted fabric…

Shawl Information: 3S Shawl by Amy Meade. Yarn is Serenity 20 from Zen Yarn Garden.