Casting On Again

Last week was great; I finished up a big knitting project, read a good book, baked cookies, and began planting flowers and doing yard work again. Yay! The leaves are bursting out on my trees, the roses are looking good, and I think that we have finally had our last freeze warning. Spring is finally here! Good weather has arrived for a few days, I have energy, and I made lots of progress over some really excellent days.

And yet, there was a downside to getting things done… I suddenly found myself rattling around the house at loose ends. I aimlessly flipped between books on my tablet, unable to find one that would hold my interest. I listlessly looked through knitting patterns, unable to commit. Where is my next project, I asked myself. I dove into the yarn stash hunting for inspiration.

Enough of that, said the stash! Here are some nice yarns, truly excellent colors, and ideas galore. It really does pay off to have a well-fed stash at times like this. Look at what I am casting on for the next round of projects…

I bought these cute shoes over the winter, and they so deserve socks to match their cuteness! What are the shoes, you ask? Those are Haflinger clogs, and my feet love them. 
Here they are! These socks are part of the Stonington Project by Ruth Garbo, and this particular pattern is No. 5 Union Street. How stinking cute can a pair of socks be? My project notes are here.
Yarn for Nordiska sweater.
I had put together the yarns for Nordiska last month but kind of forgot about them while knitting the VNeck Boxy. Yippee! I sang to myself as I pulled the kitted up yarns and pattern out of the stash. I wound the yarns…
cast on and began knitting away Monday. I love the way the “construct” colorway is working up, and the cables that show off the raglan shaping are looking great. Next month is the Estes Park Wool Market; if I knit like crazy I might be able to show off the finished Nordiska then. My project notes are here.
I kept collecting these coral and rust colored yarns through the fall and winter. Unsure of what to do with them, I kept feeding the yarn stash knowing that eventually the right project would come along. Behold! These yarns have told me that they want to be a What the Fade!? shawl. Who am I to argue with them?

So, there we are. I have projects going again and I am excited with the drive to complete more knitted yumminess.

Still hunting for the book, but it is sure to come. I have two audiobook credits to burn, so as soon as I settle on some titles I will be in business.

After all, I need something to listen to while knitting!

FO Friday: Sea Swell Shawl

It has been a pretty calm week with warm weather and cloudy skies.

The ground cover in my front yarn just burst into bloom in a big way. I always feel like spring is finally here when this phlox begins blooming!

I’m still nursing a sore ankle (the adventure continues… this bad-boy ankle will be it’s own post someday…) so I was able to get a lot of knitting done.

Let be honest here. I got the knitting done because the knitting supervisor and yarn chomper took lots of naps!

I finished the Sea Swell Shawl (by Stephen West) Monday night and got it wet blocked the next day. I really, really like this shawl. Let me introduce you to my current favorite knit:

Look at the colors and the fading and the lace and the wavy drape. Don’t you just love this? Doesn’t it look like it should be swimming in the sea. Like… maybe it should be a marine flatworm? I’m sure I saw a swimming creature like this in one of those Planet Earth videos…

This shawl is knit in wedges that use short rows with some lace to build the pattern. The back of the shawl maintains a constant number of stitches while the increases are built onto the sides and front edges. I didn’t completely understand what this would mean in terms of the drape until I was done with the shawl and wearing it.

The back of the shawl hangs with a uniform length that is just perfect to keep your back and shoulders warm. The lace, wedges and fading really shines here.
The increases built into the front sides of the shawl make it drape beautifully while worn. Notice that the two sides are complementary and not identical.

I wore this all day Wednesday and then took it out to do errands with me this afternoon. Because of the shape the shawl stays right where it belongs while wearing it!! If you usually fight with shawls to make them stay where you want them (like I do) or have to resort to a shawl pin to immobilize  them into submission, this is a big deal. The shawl even behaved itself while I was getting into and out of the car!

All of the edges of the shawl are icord, and I have to admit that I was a little sick of it while casting on and binding off. This is not a quick operation, but the finished product is so nice that it was worth the effort. I think that the stable edge contributes to the shawls well-behaved drape.

Here are my project notes. I’m already stash shopping to come with another one of these shawls. Spring colors, don’t you think?

Have a great knitting weekend everyone!

MacKenzie Speaks: Finished Objects

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Sad Cat
Do you see how sad I an? I was placed into time out for sleeping in the Mother of Cats new shawl. I just kneaded it with my claws a little bit…
Cat sleeping in shawl.
It is a wonderful shawl! Soft and so warm. This shawl has cashmere and silk in it with the merino. Perfect for a little cat nap, but the Mother of Cats was all NOPE!! and took me off.  Why is the Mother of Cats so mean to me?
Close up of shawl.
Do you see those nice colors? They are just perfect with my fabulous coat of fur.
Finished shawl.
I guess it looks okay on a human, but it is much better as a bed for me, don’t you think?
Shawl start
She also had this last little shawl to finish from Christmas…
Christmas shawl.
Nice, Mother of Cats. A little late, don’t you think? Typical human laziness. She should have devoted more time to me since she was going to be late anyway.

It is snowing outside today and the Mother of Cats and I have been working on her plants and have started some new knitting projects. I can’t wait to tell you all about what we have been up to.

After a nap.

And some cookies!

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • The first shawl is called Color Study and it is knitted with two different yarns from Western Sky Knits. This is the softest shawl that I now own; the knitted fabric is just fabulous! You can find my project notes here.
  • The Christmas colored shawl is another Close to You and the yarn is made from Brew City Premium Draft Sock in the colorway “Silver Bells” . Fast, easy, simple pattern that I’m love wearing for a little warmth in the cold weather. My project notes are here.
  • These two projects used up 3 skeins of yarn. Only 47 left to meet my goal for the year.

MacKenzie Speaks: So Much Knitting!

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

The Mother of Cats has been staying inside for days and never lets me sit by an open window. When she does open the window smoke comes in from outside. It’s because there are lots of fires burning in Colorado right now.  I don’t like smoke all that much, either, but it is so boring when the window is shut.

Hot cat.
Do you see how hot and bored I am?

It is also hot. Really hot. You would think that the Mother of Cats would devote all of her time to helping me stay cool, but she has spent the last week sitting downstairs, watching Netflix, and getting lots of knitting done. Today she went outside WITHOUT ME and took all the pictures of what she has been making.

Socks
She finished both of her new socks. 
Sweater
and a new sweater…
Close to You Shawl.
a little shawl to go on the sweater…
Close to You Shawl
and even another little shawl to go on sweaters that are blue or pink.

During all of this knitting did the Mother of Cats remember to feed me cookies and to play with me EVERY hour on the hour? No, she did not!

Hot Cat
so I made sure that she had to take knitting breaks on a regular basis. Try to knit now, Mother of Cats, and I will chomp your yarn!!

This afternoon the Mother of Cats is getting ready to start another pair of socks and we are all sitting downstairs watching the weather radar on television because there is a big thunderstorm right over us. Rain! Thunder! Hail! What is next? This is completely unacceptable. Maybe she will open a window once the rain is over.

Cat
after I get my cookies, that is…

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have my cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • The wildfires in Colorado have been just stunning in their intensity and unpredictable behavior. We need rain very badly; today it arrived in such intensity that we are now under a flash flood watch, and the new weather brought a tornado to one of the fire zones. Truly, we need a break here in the western part of the United States. This picture arrived in my Facebook feed last night showing a fire in the southern part of Colorado. Just heartbreaking. I hope that the rain coming down now helps them.

  • The socks are another one of the vanilla pattern Dave by Rachel Coopey. I measured the little ball of bright pink contrast yarn and I think that I will have enough to do the band at the top of the sock too. Casting on another pair this evening…
  • The sweater is the Throwback Tee by Wanda Eichler. My project notes are here.
  • Both of the shawls are Close to You by Justyna Lorkowska, a free pattern on Ravelry.
  • I am really, really bad at finishing items once I get them off my needles. Last night I finally sat down and took care of all the loose ends to finish a small stack of items and this afternoon I got the pictures before the rain arrived. Now it is raining hard outside: knitting time!

Rockin’ the Wool Market

What a great day I had Saturday at the Estes Park Wool Market with my BKB Deb. I have gone almost every year to this event for at least 20 years. I sat at my first spinning wheel here, bought my first fleece here, met friends, networked, and enjoyed close encounters with a lot of the critters that produce the wool/fiber that I play with as I spin, knit, dye and weave.

Girl kissing goat.
I don’t recommend kissing the animals, but sometimes it is so darn hard to not want to hug them and scratch behind their ears. Look at what happened while I was lining up this shot of a pigmy angora goat. A little girl leaned in and I had the shot.

Okay, to be honest, it is hard to ever have a bad day up in the Colorado Mountains, especially when the temperature down on the plains is a scorching mid 90’s °F. Estes Park is located in the Colorado Mountains right at the door of Rocky Mountain National Park, and is a great 90 minute drive for me from my home in Aurora.

Rocky Mountain National Park
Deb and I drove into Rocky Mountain National Park after finishing up at the Wool Market where I got this shot. It was a prefect, perfect, blue sky day.

Deb and I arrived early in the morning at the Wool Market with a definite agenda… buy yarn from Western Sky Knits! Seriously, we made a beeline for that booth as soon as we arrived. The call of fabulous yarn is pretty hard to ignore.

WSK yarn.
See this? A seriously ambitious yarn haul.

I had gone online the night before and made myself a shopping list. I wanted the black, grey, and raspberry yarns as stables for the stash. I had my heart set on more sock kits (cute yarn with the perfect little coordinating skein for the heel and toe) and some brightly colored yarn that would be stripy when knitted for arm warmers and socks. I wanted another speckled yarn to finish putting together a Speckle and Pop shawl. I desperately needed some more painted yarn for another Close to You shawl; one is not enough of these babies. July is right around the corner and I have the Christmas knitting list already fleshed out. I’ve been off the sock knitting pace, but with the right yarn I’m pretty sure that the afterburners will fire and I’ll be mass producing a stack of them before the first snow flake flies. Then there was the yarn kit to make a Faraway, So Close shawl in colors that I know several members of my family will love.

Anyway, some serious yarn shopping occurred. We actually went to the booth twice as I thought it might be a good idea to make one last call there just in case I was missing something… I’m not being defensive, really I’m not. I need all of this yarn desperately, and I’m not apologizing for my addiction one little, tiny, bit. I don’t have a problem, there is no problem here, move along…

Picture
Then there was this picture. You know that this came home with me too. The title is “High Strung”

After touring all of the other vendors it was out for yummy food (lamb kibbe salad and funnel cake!!) that was eaten up on the bleachers in one of the animal barns. As soon as lunch was over we stashed stuff in Deb’s car and then toured the animal pens.

Paco-Vicunas
Not only were there sheep and goats, but also more exotic animals like these paco-vicunas…
Bunny
…and this English angora bunny. Doesn’t he look like he wants all that fur off right away so I can spin it? 

After looking at all the animals we were drawn to some pens of alpacas with fleeces and yarn for sale. Oh, my goodness. There was a perfect, perfect rose grey alpaca fleece that was really nice (but not perfect: it was a second year fleece and grade 2, but really clean) that I just couldn’t resist. My spinning wheel has really been whining lately for some attention. I should just give it some of what it needs. MacKenzie loves fleeces…

Alpaca fleece.
The yarn from this fleece will be just amazing. I can’t wait to get going on it.

I wonder how well this fleece will take dye? I’m thinking sport/DK weight yarn that will be natural, pink, gold, and purple that can be used for colorwork mitts, hats, cowls…

and a little blanket for MacKenzie too, maybe… I know that he will be helping me do all of this.

Have a great week everyone. You can probably guess what I’ll be doing. 🙂

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!!

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.