MacKenzie Speaks: Brioche Days

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Talking Cat.
The Mother of Cats has been very unfair to me lately…

To be frank, the Mother of Cats has been out of control for days. She has been working on this shawl that is using a stitch that she calls “brioche”. Lots of brioche. Brioche in color after color.

Yarn for shawl.
All of these colors to be exact. Why does she have to use sooo many colors. Okay, I did help her wind these yarns, which was a lot of fun, but now she won’t let me touch them. She keeps them in a plastic container with a LOCKING LID! What is up with that?
Claws in the knitting.
The second I get a paw into the brioche she goes all crazy on me and makes me stop. She even YELLED at me!

I cannot believe that she is acting this way. This brioche is the yummiest knitting that she has done in quite a while. So squishy. So wonderful under my paws. So perfect for a new cat blanket…

Brioche section of "What the Fade?!" shawl.
See what I mean? There is an ocean of this brioche so far, and if she would just give it to me I would certainly put it to good use.

Nope. She is refusing to let me take a nice nap on this blanket. She let the smelly starfish touch the blanket, but me, her most devoted kitty, not a chance! I am concerned about her priorities. I’m not sure that she still loves me the way that she used to.

Cat being petted.
Okay. Maybe she does love me a little bit.

Last night she finally finished the brioche portion of the shawl and started on the garter stitch section. Garter stitch! I like garter stitch too. The way this shawl is growing there is no way she will be able to keep me off of it. Ha! Take that Mother of Cats!

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats: This shawl is the What the Fade?! shawl by Andrea Mowry. My project notes are here on Ravelry. I am proud to announce that I found every single one of these yarns in the stash (with my sidekick MacKenzie helping me dig through bins…) and didn’t have to resort to any shopping to close color gaps in the fade. Yay, stash!!

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Watercolor Days

A couple of weeks ago I had trouble breathing, called my doctor’s office, and the nurse there called 911 for me. Wow. What an experience that was. Okay, it was a little surreal to be frank. One of the things that happened was the paramedic, after he had placed a needle in my arm vein, attached me to heart monitors and then placed me on oxygen, told me how much he liked my watercolor paintings of cats. What? This is really happening? Panting for air, I struggled for a moment to think of what he was talking about.

Cat Quilts
Oh. These cat pictures.

Those aren’t really watercolor paintings, but they sure do look like it, I suppose. They are actually art quilts made with handpainted fabrics that give them their “watercolor” look.

Siamese Cat quilt.
Here’s a close-up of one of the quilts. You can see that the picture is made by fusing down lots of painted and stenciled fabric pieces that were then sewn and quilted. 

The patterns for the quilts came from McKenna Ryan and I bought them at a local quilt store years ago. Over months I slowly assembled the fabric stash to get the colors that I wanted, and then I created the quilts in my own colors to make them show cats that I have known and loved over my life. These three cats are Morgan (the yellow sunflower cat), Zach (the tuxedo cat) and Teak (my beloved Siamese cat).  I love these quilts, especially because of the quality of the dyes on the fabric and the way the colors work together.

So, do you think that I am a sucker for handpainted yarn? Oh, my lord, that would be a huge YES!

The week after the exciting and exhausting ambulance ride my BKB (best knitting bud) Deb and I went up to the Interweave Yarn Fest to do some quality shopping.

Yarn booth.
The first booth in the door was this one by Western Sky Knits. Look at those yarns!! Look at those handpainted yarns in amazing colors! Look! Look!

Don’t those yarns look a lot like the colors that are in the quilts?

Yarns
Take a closer look. See what I’m talking about?

I saw these yarns and I was gone. I didn’t even do my usual pass through the entire yarn show before buying anything. I just started piling up the yarn that I wanted and that was that. I bought 11 skeins of fabulous, water-colorish yarns and wanted more. Let me show you what I got.

Yarn
I am a complete sucker for a good gold yarn. That was the first skein to jump into my arms. I love this gold. I bought two speckles to go with the first gold skein, and then had to get another skein of gold just in case. You know. Who can tell what I’ll need in the future? The stash cries for gold yarn. I’m on the hunt for the right shawl pattern now, but I’m also dreaming of socks and arm warmers.
Yarn
Then there was this. I needed these colors in my stash.  These yarns are the missing pieces that I needed to make some shawls that I’ve been organizing from the stash. Just like I did with the quilts, I have been assembling colors for projects that I dream of from a number of sources and putting them into my stash. These yarns, and these colors, filled the final gaps and made my vision come together.

Here’s the thing. Looking at these yarns, I realized that they are the colors of the quilts. Watercolors. Colors that make me smile inside. The colors of sunshine, flowers in the garden, cats, and summer days. I look at these yarns, I imagine the projects that they will make shine, and I begin plotting the knitting. And the flowers that I will plant in the garden next month. And the people that I will gift the knitting to. Some projects that will last as long and give me (and hopefully others) as much joy as the watercolor quilts that I have on the wall.

Watercolor days.

May you all have many of the same.

Mixology Mayhem and Two Good Books

I’ve been wanting to make a Mixology (by Casapinka) for quite a while. One night I printed out the pattern, shopped the stash, gathered up some yarn, and casted on with a sense of reckless abandon. Great yarns, great colors, and I couldn’t wait to see how it would look as I mixed them up in the shawl.

Yarns for shawl.
Look at these happy colors. Won’t these be a lot of fun in the mash-up of Mixology

Okay, I have to be honest here; I just don’t do any swatching. Ever. I’m lazy. Maybe I need instant gratification. Anyway, I like to just throw the yarn onto my needles and launch into the project. Besides, how could these colors not work out?

Knitting
The knitting has a lot of colors changes at the beginning. So far, looking good! MacKenzie: cat toy!! 
Knitting.
As I kept knitting I began to question my choices. Gee, the pink is awfully bright and the yellow variegated yarn isn’t really pulling its weight. Where did all of that green come from and where did the blue go? What can I actually wear this thing with in my closet? I should have asked myself that sooner, but in my defense, I was seduced by the yarn…

I ripped it off the needles and recycled all of the yarn. I was pretty cheerful about it. I had just bought a few new items for my wardrobe in indigo blue and thought that I should build a Mixology that would go with them. Back into the stash I dived…

Yarn for shawl.
There. Don’t these look like they would like to play with my new denim jacket and dress?
Knitting.
Here it is. Mixology 2.0. I love the colors. My best friend said something about it being dark, but I had faith in the colors to come. I went out to look at the shop sample to see how the whole color sequence would work out.

The shop sample was a lot smaller than mine. Like 6 inches smaller across then my knitting. Oh, oh. I was first drawn to the shawl/scarf because of the size of this sample. If it is too big it won’t work right. I checked my needle size and the pattern again. Yep. I was using the right needle. Then I checked the gauge. Holy smokes, who ever checks the gauge on a shawl? Well, it might have been nice if I had…

My best friend Deb helped me rip it all out. She’s fearless that way, and is know for her ripping (and cutting) episodes. Hmmm… what a good opportunity to make some yarn color changes. Since I just happened to be in a yarn shop…

Yarns for shawl.
Behold: Mixology 3.0. I added a couple of Baah! La Jolla yarns that added more variation and bridged the red and blue a little better.
Knitting
I went down a needle size and I’m exactly at the gauge that I want. I just love how the colors are working together. It’s a keeper!

I’m approaching the half-way mark on the shawl now and the colors are working out great. I’m going to get a lot of use out of this, and I learned a lot while going through the process. As you can guess, it has taken several weeks to work my way through the different iterations of the Mixology, and there were some big breaks where I just lost myself into a book for an evening and let the knitting sit in a corner to think about what it had done for awhile.

Books
Meet the knitting break books.

I read a lot, and I’m doing a reading challenge at Goodreads. With a sense of optimism I committed to reading 50 books this year. Book after book, week after week, I have been chomping my way through mysteries, science fiction and popular novels. I rate all of the books at Goodreads, and they almost always get 3 or 4 stars (out of a possible 5). I usually like all of the books that I read, and they certainly keep me entertained, but I long for a book that is well written, with characters of real depth, and a sense of magic. I don’t want to know where the book is going before I get there. I want to feel impacted by the book. I want 5 stars!

Well, during the various Mixology melt-downs and knitting breaks I found two treasures lurking in my Nook and on the bookshelf. Two remarkable books that deal with death and loss, family dysfunction, grief, crisis, and the eventual coming into their own of the young people who make their way through the emotional storms in each book. Seriously, I’ve been up half the night with each of these. I had no idea that they would deal with similar  subjects, but somehow I launched into them back to back, and will treasure each book for quite some time. Here they are: Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt and Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.  I highly recommend both of these books.

You know, I did all of that knitting with yarns from the stash (until I got to the last version of Mixology), and both of those books have been with me for months. I need to toss the house to look for other treasures. I wonder what is in the fridge, although things abandoned there are usually dangerous. Still, I’m feeling really hopeful as I write this. I’m going to poke around in the kitchen as soon as I finish this. Chocolate. I bet there is chocolate down there.

Cat peaking from under blanket.
Yellow Boy: and maybe you could find us some cat cookies while you’re own there!!

Have a good rest of the week everyone.

On My Needles: Two Socks and a Scarf

I’ve been knitting like crazy and hatching plans. Why, you ask? Well… it’s Olympics time! Time for a great sweater (or two). I’m so excited about getting some serious knitting done while watching the winter games.

Except… I have these WIPs lurking downstairs bleating pitifully. It really is sad. Somehow they know that they are on the verge of being abandoned for weeks to come. For the last few days I’ve taken their cries to heart and have been knitting on them like crazy. Here they are:

Sock
These are simple vanilla socks in the pattern by Rachel Coopey called “Dave“. The yarn is a really nice sock yarn from madelinetosh called twist light. This is a simple pattern. Don’t you think I should get these done before Friday night?
Sock
These socks have been languishing for way too long. Another Rachel Coopey pattern, “Eugene“, they are being knitted from a sock blank dyed by Bonkers. The sock has an interesting pattern that you can’t see well because of the kinky yarn (hey, it was unraveled from the sock blank. It’s trying to be good…), but I think it will look really cool as soon as I finish knitting and block the socks.

Socks are fast. I can almost knit the Dave one while reading. If I work really steady on these I might, just might, get them done before the start of the Olympics.

That just leaves the Mixology Scarf. Right. That is so not going to happen.

Knitted fabric.
Here’s the beginning of the shawl. Nice, huh. I only have about 6 more feet of knitting to go. This is Mixology by Casapinka.

I love the colors of the shawl. I’m completely intrigued to discover how all the different colors will interact with each other. I couldn’t wait to get started on it the day that I cast on. I still am really happy about it.

Poor thing. It is going to be hibernating until I get those Olympic projects done. I have to knit a sweater. It is TRADITION!! I’ve done it for 4 years in a row, and I really need a new sweater. I live in Colorado, and March is typically our snowiest month. I’ll be rocking the new knit as I shovel my way free after some storm or another.

But during the storm I’ll be knitting on Mixology. Hang on, little guy. Your day is coming.

In case you’re wondering:

  • I do know about Ravellenics.  I struggle with a official, online commitment when it comes to knitting, but … maybe it is time for me to get my feet wet. There has to be a sweater event, right?
  • I’ve made an organizational chart of yarns, patterns, and am trying to decide which sweater to start on during the opening of the games. I have a wonderful bluish grey Rios yarn, but there is also some happy red Lamb’s Pride calling my name. Both are cold weather sweater yarns. Can you feel a new post coming?

 

Introducing Marfa

The local yarn store where I knit, Colorful Yarns, has a sample shawl displayed just inside the front door. My best knitting bud (that would be Deb, the utterly fearless and adventurous knitter) and I kept looking at it and trying it on. So cute. Just the right size. Brioche. Garter. Shawl lust occurred. The sample was knit in black and a golden yellow multi yarn… not my colors, but I could see the potential. The pattern, Marfa, and I went home together when I left that afternoon.

Black Elephant Yarns
The shawl really makes contrasting yarns shine. I already had these in my stash waiting: “we want to be a really cool shawl”, they cried.. I let them out of the bin to see how they would play together. The names of the colorways were a little worrisome (She’s Like Heroin and Wasting Light), but they got along okay.
Start of shawl.
Oh, don’t they get along well?

I’m not going to lie. The brioche and I had some misunderstandings at first. The pattern and I had some disagreements and mistakes were made. The cats insisted that they should get their claws into the squishy yumminess and had to be put into time out (AKA the garage).

Shawl
But I got over all of that as the shawl grew. So cool!

Last week I cast off, blocked, and took it out for some pictures.

Close up of knitted fabric.
I just love the way the turquoise in the black peaks through in the brioche.
Finished shawl.
And here is what the whole shawl looks like. This pattern is Marfa by This.Bird.Knits, and my project notes on Ravelry are here.

I haven’t woven in the ends yet, but it is done, right? Ha! I’ll get to it in the next day or so. I’m waiting for some snow.

Hope you all had a great weekend.

Starting the Year Right: Finished Objects Already

So, last year didn’t end quite as well as I had hoped. I was in a flare of my autoimmune diseases (systemic sclerosis and Sjogren’s Syndrome), drowning in fatigue and befuddled with brain fog. Ugh. Not the best for knitting or anything else come to think of it. Christmas shopping was a challenge, Christmas cooking didn’t happen (expect for a cheesecake!), and I took almost a month to do one knitting projects (ahem… the Turkish Hell Socks).

This, however, is a new year. As in, my energy is coming back, I rediscovered my special cache of “yarns I love beyond all reason” (seriously, that is the label that I put on the storage bin…), and I started casting on with abandon. I have had these projects waiting to go for weeks and weeks, my needles were empty, and… knitting happened!!

Hat
I made myself a cute, cute, cute winter hat. This is the Copycat C.C. Beanie. My project notes on Ravelry are here. I have some more of this yarn and am thinking about how to make fingerless mitts with the same pattern.

My niece in Virginia contacted me right at the end of the year to ask if I could make her some fingerless mitts and a pair of the ones with dragon scales for her to gift to her own niece. Wow. Time flies. This is a sort-of grandniece who is now an adult. How did I get here so quickly? Anyway, you know I bought the supplies the weekend before New Years and here are the finished mitts.

DragonPaw Mitts
Pretty darn spectacular, don’t you think? These are actually warmer than you would think, as there is a layer of wool between the aluminum scales and the wearer. I mailed them off to Virginia yesterday. My Ravelry notes are here.

I also have two pairs of socks and a couple of shawls on the needles. Crazy, right. The socks are for simple knitting while doing errands, and the shawls are for binge television watching and long evening knitting. I don’t want to bore you with all the pictures of knitting bits on needles, but this Marfa shawl is totally worth a picture.

Shawl on the needles.
This triangular Marfa shawl is garter stitch with strips of two color brioche. After a couple of false starts (and some frogging) I am rocking the brioche and really loving the way this looks. My Ravelry page for this project is here.

I have to admit, I have already started digging in the stash to put together the yarns for another of these brioche shawls. I need to seriously cruise Ravelry to see what else is there. Brioche love. Who knew?

Finally, I have had a sweater all knitted up and stored in a plastic bin waiting to get finished. For weeks.  Kind of embarrassing as this sweater was knit from the neck down and needed very little finishing. In my defense, I was hunting for the perfect buttons. Feeling pretty good about myself after I completed the hat I took it out one afternoon and finished it up just in time for a weekend snow storm.

Buttons being sew onto the sweater.
These simple wooded buttons aren’t all that special, but they were certainly hard to find. I needed them to be exactly the right size with two holes big enough for the yarn.
Sweater
Here’s the finished sweater. My goodness, I do love this pattern. This is the second drijfhout sweater that I’ve made, and it is extremely comfy and versatile. My notes on Ravery are here.

You know what they say, start out as you mean to go. I’m feeling pretty good now, I’m catching up on chores, and the knitting is just jumping off of my needles.  Way to go, 2018.

We’re having snow here tomorrow. I’m ready, winter. Bring it on!

MacKenzie Speaks: Meet the Danzig Shawl

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Cat
Do I look a little grumpy here? It’s hot!!

The Mother of Cats has been hard at work getting all of her knitting projects done. The last one in her WIP basket was this shawl that has been dragging on for weeks.

Cat and knitting.
I don’t understand why she is so slow sometimes. I help her as much as I can…
Shawl
Here is her shawl the day that we started it. Nice colors, huh. She got that pink yarn for her birthday last year, and the gray is some yarn that she had in her stash. She won’t let me play in the stash room; I think that she needs to learn to share her toys a little better, don’t you?
Cat sitting on shawl.
We finished knitting the shawl early this week and once it was blocked (WHY does she cover it with towels while it is blocking? Doesn’t she understand how yummy it is to roll around in wet wool?) we took it outside for pictures. Gosh, this is nice and squishy. Too bad it isn’t wet any more…
Stitch Detail.
Look at how cool the stitch is in the colored sections. The Mother of Cats had to keep turning the knitting back and forth to make the “pebbles”, which was exciting for me as I got to whap the yarn every time she made a turn. She called it “short rows”. Whatever. I called it exciting.
Detail of knitting.
She even used a row of the “pebbles” at the edge of the shawl. Yummy!
Shawl
Here’s the big view of the finished shawl. Hmmm… wouldn’t that look nice in my cat bed?

 

Cat in garden.
So that’s it. She’s taking a little break from the knitting while she gets gardening and other stuff done. Me, I’m hanging out in the cat mint staying cool. Maybe a little later I’ll visit with the Enemy Cat from next door… NOT!! Yellow Boy put a claw into him a couple of days ago and that was the last time he come over the fence into OUR YARD!! Good riddance. I must say, I was a little shocked by some of the language that came out of Yellow Boy’s mouth. Who knew he was a secret brawler?

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

Shawl

  • I am very happy with the size and fit of this shawl. After knitting three “Find Your Fade” shawls this one was the perfect size for easy wearing. The pattern is Danzig by Justyna Lorkowska,  and my Ravelry project notes are here.
  • MacKenzie was an adult when I adopted him, and he had picked up quite a few bad habits before he came home with me. Actually, he was a handful, and clearly needed more stimulation than I could provide. I found him a Maine Coon kitten to be his companion, and while MacKenzie is my pet, Yellow Boy is MacKenzie’s baby that he grooms and fusses over. Yellow Boy is easily frightened and has been know to wail from time to time. Who knew he would put Enemy Cat into his place?
  • I started a new sweater a couple of days ago and spent time organizing yarn for the next massive knitting project, the Marled Magic Sweater by Stephen West. He suggested that at least 1500 grams of yarn be gathered up to use in the shawl. Done! I’ll show it off in my next post.