The Saturday Update: Week 12

This was quite the week, wasn’t it? I’m home in self-isolation as are many other people who read my blog. Fun times, huh! I have lots of practice with this and have been reflecting on how to share some of my insights and coping strategies in an upcoming blog. Along with all of the news and stress of the week, we also had a major snowstorm a couple of days ago.

This was kind of ridiculous! It was windy, part of my back fence is sagging, and my front porch was buried in a foot of snow.
I went out to shovel the snow the next day after things had warmed up, but after only a few minutes my most wonderful neighbor in the world came out to do it for me. I tried to stay out to shovel with him, but he wasn’t having any of that! Directed to go back indoors since I was limping and panting a little, I finally bowed to the voice of reason and went back inside. I’m making his family cookies later today!!

Here’s what else happened this week:

Knitting

I’m going to admit that I started out the week stressed and a little sad. Times are bad, my doctors have cancelled all of my medical procedures, and I was told to self-isolate like my life depended on it. Since I wasn’t quite up to tricky knitting I retreated from knitting the cat to working on the soothing and mostly mindless stockinette knitting of my new Pebble Tunic. It is growing, people!

I’m about 14″ below the armholes and a couple of inches below the openings for the pockets. The fabric is soft and yummy, and just a comforting piece of knitting in stressful times.

The colors are hard to get in a picture, but this sweater is mostly soft pink with little flashes of grey appearing through the mohair halo. So soft. So huggable. Just what I need right now as I binge watch shows on Netflix.

Garden
My monster orchid now has 9 blooms and is hanging out in the living room.

While everyone around me was loading their carts with toilet paper and spam last week I was filling mine with cheese, Bai drinks and potting soil. You know, essential items! I repotted a small weeping fig tree that I have growing in my front window and then went after the monster orchid; the blooms had made it so top heavy that the plant kept falling over and one of the leaves broke. Fine. I will repot you now even through I wanted to wait until you were done blooming. It’s kind of a risky move, but you’ve given me little choice, monster orchid!

Monster orchid: Thank you, I feel much better now.

So far the orchid and the weeping fig seem to have survived their repotting experiences. I plan to prune the fig in a few weeks if it continues to do okay. Right now it is pretty bushy looking and I am trying to produce an indoor tree.

Books

I spent the whole week reading this entertaining and mindless science fiction book. You have to absolutely suspend all scientific knowledge to make this book work, but it was still engaging enough to keep me going. I became annoyed by the libertarian theme running in the background of the story (rugged individualists escape an over-controlling socialist government and all taxation and regulation to flourish on the moon in scrappy anarchist colonies…) as the week’s events here in the United States made it apparent how central control by governmental agencies is necessary in extreme circumstances like… say… an unfolding pandemic and global economic collapse. Just saying.

But if you want to read about highly intelligent dogs in space suits, deep water ships that can fly to the moon, and racing around in tunnels on motorcycles, this book is for you.

There is another book in the series waiting for me to read it, but I think that I’m ready to shift to a couple of books that are more intellectually engaging. Waiting for me to read them are American Dirt (by Jeanine Cummins), Weather: A Novel (by Jenny Offill), and Lab Girl (by Hope Jahren).

Well, that’s all for the week.

Please, please, everyone, be safe!

Remember to read a little, knit a little, and garden like your heart can’t live without it.

And make something yummy to eat while you are at it!

The Saturday Update: Week 11

Life is suddenly getting a little intense, isn’t it? I hope that everyone is safe and that you have your plans (and food) in place to prepare for days and weeks at home. I feel that I’m about as well prepared as I can be: months of prescriptions on hand, a yarn and craft stash that can keep me occupied for months, if not years, and all the consumable goods for several weeks at home. I already am a bulk buyer who keeps a well stocked pantry, so the last minute shopping that I had to do was pretty minor. I bought some potting soil, canned goods, some meats to freeze, and the most important item on my list:

While everyone else was grabbing toilet paper and Spam, this is what went into to my cart!!

I’m not hoarding. This is essential for life! I also need coffee, but I bought a huge bag a few weeks ago, so I am set!

Knitting

I am still running around to medical facilities for testing, and even fit in a dentist appointment and a phone appointment with one of my doctors. The knitting is suffering in consequence, but the sweater, a Pebble Tunic (Joji Locatelli) is slowing growing and I am a few inches away from the pockets. Most of the knitting went into the knitted copy of my son’s kitten Jonesy. I finished the back feet this week and am ready to start the front paws.

Those back feet look just ridiculous, don’t they! Once they are sewn up and fitted into the body of the cat they will look much better.
What do you think of the color match?

I hope to get this done in the next week. I can’t wait to get the eyes in and the ears onto this cat’s head!

Garden

This week all the birds came back and we had rain after months of snow; Spring is right around the corner. My indoor miniature roses are getting tired of the indoor life and long for stronger sun, but I am suddenly getting more blooms on them.

At least the mildew that was a problem in the early winter has gone. Hang on little bushes; in a few more weeks you will be headed outside again for the summer.
The orchids continue to wow as more blooms appear. I seriously am in love with the monster orchid. I put it out on display in the living room for most of the week and then it returns to its floodlight for a few days of quality rays. So far this is working and the plant continues to bloom and look healthy.
Books

Today I finished (at long last) The Overstory by Richard Power. This is an amazing book and totally worth reading, but I want to make some caveats:

    • There are a lot of characters with intertwining stories. Their names change from time to time. The author jumps back and forth between the characters as he synchronizes the story line elements to build a complex, but compelling, conclusion. This is not a good book to read slowly over a few weeks.
    • I listened to a lot of this book while knitting, which was another mistake. It made things too slow. The jumps between characters, which is obvious in the text formatting, was confusing in the audible version. I couldn’t keep track of the names and shifting imagery the way I should of.
    • You kind of have to love nature, appreciate art, and value a complex multi-layered story to enjoy this book.
    • I am a geek, a biologist, and an outdoor educator for my state. I think that visiting a fish hatchery is a fabulous outing. I long to have a bee hive. I tend to let spiders and shrubs just do their thing with a little gentle intervention… and I also struggle with my neighbors to leave my front lawn alone; they will trim shrubs, spray for weeds, and edge the grass if I don’t keep an eye on them. These men are trying to help, and I appreciate them immensely, but that perfectly trimmed shrub just had all of its flowers clipped off…  why do men think that shrubs need to be perfect cubes? I mulch under my rose bushes and they helpfully clear out my flower beds. They also take cuttings from my plants and admire my roses. I do manage to keep the back yard the way I want: the leaves don’t get raked in the fall, and the dandelions flourish back there in the spring for the bees. By midsummer my back lawn looks great, I have bees swarming my other flowering plants, and the neighbors comment from time to time about how nice it looks. Somehow the front yard doesn’t do as well… because of all this I appreciated some of the messages in the book.

I’m glad that I read The Overstory, and the name is really meaningful once you have finished the book, but I do think that it isn’t for everyone. Me, I will never look at a tree the same way again.

Have a great week everyone!! Read a little, knit a little, and garden like your heart can’t live without it!

MacKenzie Speaks: My Blankie, My Blankie!!

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Do you see this nice yarn that I am rolling around in? Something wonderful has happened this week!

Well, actually, something wonderful happened this week because things have gotten just awful outside. I blame the Mother of Cats totally for what has happened this week.

Look at this! Almost a foot of this stuff is spread out across MY YARD and it is so cold I can’t even put my paw into it for more than a second!

That’s right. It started snowing three days ago and the cold and the snow just kept on coming day after day after day…

If the Mother of Cats really cared about me she would put a stop to this white madness, but NOPE! she did not. Monday morning she did go digging into the yarn stash and found some yarns that are the kind that I like a lot.

Don’t these yarns look nice and warm?
The Mother of Cats decided that it was an emergency to make me a cat blanket, so she started knitting with all four of the yarns held together at the same time.
Hey! This knitted stuff is really nice and warm. I can use my claws on it all I want and it won’t fall apart! The Mother of Cats is really acting nice. I think that she is feeling guilty about all of that cold white stuff.

Since the Mother of Cats was making some knitted stuff that was truly excellent to sleep on I decided to hand out with her all day yesterday while she worked. Okay, it was really cold out in the garage, and there was no way I could frolic around outside, so I had to stay in the house. Of course I stayed with her and helped her knit all day.

Don’t you think that these yarns look nice with my fur?

Because the Mother of Cats was holding 4 strands of yarn at the same time the knitting went really fast. I mean, she must have gotten a couple of inches done between breaks for cookies. I got lots of pets and I held all of the balls of yarn while she worked, and she gave me all of the extra balls to take care of too. The Mother of Cats is so lucky that she has me to help her.

Look at how nice and big this blanket is! It is a perfect sleeping pad for me on the bed.
She even put tassels on the blankie!! I love tassels!

Now I have a blankie to sleep on while the Mother of Cats does stupid stuff like cooking and sewing. I just love my blankie. Yay! For once the Mother of Cats has put my needs first, but it certainly took her a long time to pay attention to how badly I needed this blankie.

I’m such a good boy!

Can I have some cookies now? Can I have them served on my blankie?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

The finished blanket is really warm, thick and sturdy. It should be able to standup to claws and chomps for a long time.
  • The finished blanket is 3 feet long from point to point, and fits nicely on the bed, chairs, and of course the floor. MacKenzie prefers to have his blankie on the bed, of course! My project notes for this blanket are here.
  • MacKenzie is visibly struggling in the cold and I am sure that he has some type of arthritis. I’m hoping that the warm cushy wool is comforting on old bones; it is in weather like this that I remember that he is a 16 year old cat.
  • I also did the little bit of finishing on my last sweater and got a not-great photo of it since I had to stay indoors. Ta-daa! Here is my Understated Sweater (Joji Locatelli).
I am considering making the sleeves wrist length, but am test driving the shorter version for a few weeks. I am making matching socks and may have enough yarn left over to make wrist warmers that will extend the warmth on my arms on cold days. I love the endless individuality that knitting my own stuff gives me.
  • My project notes for the Understated Sweater are here.
  • MacKenzie is not kidding about the cold. We broke a record here in the Denver area this morning with a new low of 3°F this morning. Brrr!
  • The blankie ate up 7 skeins of yarn! The destash project is looking good!

 

 

MacKenzie Speaks: Massive Slip and Panic Knitting

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Do you see this knitting that I’m trying to get a claw into? There is a story about this hunk of wooly goodness…

The Mother of Cats has been staying indoors for the last couple of weeks avoiding the cold and babying her ill behaved hip, knitting like crazy on ANOTHER sweater. It is almost like she is on fire to get lots of knitting done. Whatever could have set her off?

The Mother of Cats had a MAJOR SLIP and bought all of this yarn last month for her birthday. She needs to get 50 skeins of yarn out of the stash and she did something like this?!!

Bad Mother of Cats. How could she be so undisciplined and go shopping for yarn for herself? She needs to buy stuff for me!!! More cookies! Another little cat for me to chase around!! A new blankie for me to sleep on. She is so thoughtless and self-absorbed.

Of course, as soon as she got this yarn home she began to knit even faster than ever and started neglecting me more then she should. She never lets me go outside anymore, and I am positive that I haven’t been getting as many cookies as I used to. Where are my new toys? I can hardly cope with this lack of attention.

She did leave one skein unwound until the very end of the knitting so I could sleep with it. Do you like how this yarn looks with my fur? This is Chasing Rabbits Merinolux DK yarn in the colorway Colorful September. 
The Mother of Cats has been really selfish about sharing her knitting with me…
But when you get down to it the Mother of Cats really is no match for me. I try to keep a paw on the knitting at all times.

The Mother of Cats finished the sweater today and then washed it (WHY does she do these things? That nice yarn absolutely did not deserve to be dumped into water in the sink! I watched it closely and it never did anything that would warrant just extreme measures…).

But then the Mother of Cats spread the wet sweater out to dry on towels on the floor. Oh. I really like wet wool. Maybe the Mother of Cats did this for me. Maybe she does think about me a little bit.

Would you believe that the Mother of Cats put another layer of towels on top of the sweater so I couldn’t got to the wet wool? WHY DOES SHE DO THESE THINGS? Now we need to wait another day or two before we can take the picture of the finished sweater. Oh wait… maybe we will get to go outside to do that!! Things may be looking up.

I love to go outside.

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • I have been making really good progress on the yarn destash project, and by the end of September I had used up or removed 49 skeins from the stash. Feeling really confident on my ability to make the 50 skein goal I went wild and bought that fabulous navy/blue/green yarn from Chasing Rabbits.
  • I also decided to make this cat for a Christmas present and bought some yarn for that too…
  • I needed an assortment of mohair and alpaca yarns to build the buff tabby cat that I want to knit. Because the designer combined three yarns together to create the texture of the cat’s fur I needed several skeins, but the knitting will consume them fairly quickly because… knit three strands at once. I also bought some dark brown and black yarns because… MacKenzie. My cousin, who had just gone to Peru, also sent me alpaca yarn. When the dust settled I had acquired 8 more skeins of yarn for the cat.
  • Suddenly I had put another 16 skeins of yarn into the stash. Oops! Panic knitting time!! I cranked up into overdrive and began on an Understated Sweater by Joji Locatelli last week and cast it off today. My project notes are here. 6 skeins polished off just like that! My skein count is now 39 removed from the stash and I am again hopeful that I will make the goal. I do have another sweater that I want to start soon that should consume lots of skeins, so I am hopeful. Then there will be the Christmas knitting…
  • It is cold and snowy here today, but hopefully I will be able to get a picture of the finished sweater in the next day or two.

All the Caitlins

Alright, I admit it. I have kind of a thing with Caitlin Hunter’s designs right now. I started in May last year with an innocent little Tegna sweater, and then there was another Tegna, and then I decided to try a sweater with some Fair Isle work in it (ahem… I’m talking to you Sipila), and before I knew it I had gone down the Caitlin Hunter rabbit hole. In less then 18 months I have completed 8 different sweaters from this designer, and I’m still in love with every single one of them.

Top row from the left: Tegna, my autumn hydrangea, and Sipila. Middle row from the left: Mums, Koivua, another Tegna, and Nordiska. Bottom row from the left: Sturgill, Marettimo Zweig, and some coneflowers.

A few week ago a good friend from my old knitting group contacted me to let me know that she had a gift for me. What? A gift? This was completely out of the blue, and generated a little guilt on my end as I didn’t have a gift to give back. Since I’ve given up going to my knitting group lately as I’m staying more at home these days to manage my symptoms (more guilt!),  Diane finally popped her gift to me into the mail. Completely mystified I opened the envelope to discover…

A note from Caitlin Hunter herself!!
Diane took a picture of Caitlin writing the note!

Best gift ever!  Diane, thank you so much!! Opening that envelope was a joyful as finishing off one of these sweaters and popping it on for the first time. I am so happy and grateful that you thought of me.

I have one more Caitlin Hunter sweater in my queue that I’m hoping to get done before the end of the year, a Soldotna Crop sweater that I will be making a little longer than crop. I have a bunch of homespun yarns that are just chomping to be made into a Soldotna. I know, I am a little out of control, but I’m having a lot of fun, so don’t judge me. 🙂 If I manage to make my yarn destash goals this year it will be partly due to Caitlin’s compelling sweater designs, so this is a good thing, right?

It’s going to cool down this weekend so I’m totally going to rock one of these sweaters. Have a great (knitting) weekend everyone.

Houston, We have a Koivua…

It’s here, it’s here, it’s here! I have been listening to some amazing science fiction books and knitting away thinking about space and different forms of learning and intelligence. This is a sweater that will be forever linked with evolution, creativity, space ships, and human struggle, hence the title of this post. I am please to announce the arrival of my Koivua, a sweater that has been an adventure from start to finish. Yep, this has been a journey, but I feel that I really learned a lot along the way. Before I go into all of the detail of this misadventure I guess I’d better show off the final product.  Ta-daa… and here’s….Koivua!!

Hot off the knitting needles, here is my finished Koivua.

I fussed and worried a lot about the yarns that I used for this sweater, and finally bought some lovely DK weight natural yarn (Scout by Kelbourne Woolens) to go with my beautiful DK weight superwash yarn from Stitch Together Studio.

The Scout yarn is not superwash and the rose colored yarn is. NOT a problem, right? Houston, we have a PROBLEM!!

After looking at the two yarns carefully I decided to knit with the cream yarn in my right hand and the rose superwash yarn in my left. I loved the rose and wanted it to show well in the sweater. Since the cream was fluffier I was pretty sure I would get a balanced fabric after blocking the Fair Isle knitted colorwork.

Not that balanced after all. The cream yarn is just getting eaten alive by the rose that seems to be much bulkier after blocking. Maybe it can’t compete with the superwash, but it didn’t emerge the way I expected it to after blocking. Crap!! I should have done a swatch trying out both versions of handling the yarn. I love the vein details in the leaves, but you’d never know they were there with this pathetic showing of the cream yarn. 

Now that the sweater is done I am very sad that I didn’t knit it with the white in my left hand, but such is life. I wanted the rose to be dominant, and it is doing that, so I should focus on that. Lesson learned. Let’s move on to the bottom of the sweater where I had more of a success.

Isn’t this corrugated ribbing the best?!

I added a repeat of the textured block at the bottom of the sweater to get some more length and discovered that it really wanted to blouse out. The ribbing at the top of the sweater drew in quite a bit, so I decided to add corrugated ribbing to balance the colors in the sweater and to keep the drape of the sweater open. This was a huge win!! Since I knew that an I-cord bind off was going to be used on the sleeves I just went ahead and added one here to put more weight at the hem. Cool. This kind of makes up for the wimpy veins on the leaves. On to the sleeves!

A sleeve to be proud of!

The original design as charted by the author (Caitlin Hunter) created belled sleeves by increasing the stitch count at the end of the first colorwork section and again at the top of the second colorwork section. I counted stitches, did some math, decreased 2 stitches after finishing the first colorwork block, redistributed my stitch markers and I now had decreased the sleeve from 12 repeats of the pattern to 10 repeats. Yay! By the end of the sleeve I had chopped 16 stitches out of the stitch count, which is still kind of full, but not as belled as originally written. I had to make some adjustments as I did the decreases at the bottom of the sleeve, but managed to get the stitches back to the correct number before the final I-cord bind off. Pretty good, huh!

Once I had the sweater all blocked and finished I decided that I wanted some color right at the top of the neck to balance everything and to give it that last little shot of the rose yarn that I loved so much. Yep. I picked up stitches around the neck and added an I-cord bind off to complete the look.

The I-cord actually helped put the ribbing at the neck down around my shoulders as it wanted to try to do a little turtleneck action. The I-cord put a stop to that and gave me the color balance that I wanted in the sweater. It is also stretchy enough to allow the sweater to be easily pulled over my head. Win!

The only thing that I have failed to mention is the heart-stopping worry that I had that perhaps the rose yarn might run a little when I blocked the sweater. I had already made a sweater from this yarn and didn’t remember any problems, but still, I worried.

I did make a swatch to test this. No problems!! Notice that the cream seems slightly larger than the rose yarn. Why is my Fair Isle misbehaving? So unexpected and unfair. Okay, I’m moving on now….

I should mention that it is not a good plan to drink red colored vitamin water while knitting a white sweater. Sometimes, I am stupid. There is a tiny amount of additional pink in places where it shouldn’t be, but I’m not going to show that off, and you really don’t need to see it. Just remember this little gem of good advice and don’t be stupid like me…

So that’s it. My Koivua is done, it makes me happy to look at it and I can’t wait for colder weather to arrive so I can show it off. Yay. Meanwhile I am battling MacKenzie for control of the sweater and dreaming of a new project to cast on. I think that it is time for dark blue yarn, don’t you?

Because bossy cats need their knitting to sleep on.

If you would like to see my Ravelry notes on this project after all of this you can find them here. If you are wondering about the books that I’ve been reading/listening to they are the two book set by Adrian Tchaikovsky called Children of Time and Children of Ruin. I’m trying to think of how to write about these two books…

MacKenzie Speaks: Climb Every Mountain is Done!

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

I’ve been helping the Mother of Cats for weeks now on her sweater knitting. Last week, finally, she got one of them done.

The weather turned nasty and I didn’t get to go outside for days. Seriously, look at how nasty it got…

The garden became covered in snow. Look at what happened to the hydrangeas!! I forgot that this stuff existed, but here it is again making my life miserable. Why does the Mother of Cats let this kind of thing happen?! She should care more about me!

Because we couldn’t go outside for a few days and there wasn’t any watering to do outside the Mother of Cats settled down and got some serious knitting done.

She finished my sweater and PUT IT ON!! How can I take a nap on this sweater if she is going to wear it?
Do you see how this sweater is the perfect shape for me to take a nap on it?

The Mother of Cats says that this sweater is really comfy and fun to wear; something like a swancho, whatever that is. All I know is that she is wearing my new, most favorite cat blankie. I need more attention. I need to have more cookies. I want to go outside!!

Sigh. The backyard has been kind of ruined for the year.

Laters. It is time for my dinner and I am going to demand extra cookies on the side.

I’m such a good boy!

Can I have those cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • The sweater is Climb Every Mountain by Heidi Kirrmaier. This is a seriously comfy sweater that is going to be a workhorse layering piece for me this fall into the winter. My project notes are here.
  • I altered the pattern to put I-cord trim on the sleeves (instead of ribbing) and then added more I-cord to the top of the neckline ribbing as the sweater was a little loose and sloppy on me, probably because of the fabulous soft yarn that I used. Anyway, all was fixed once the I-cord was added and I’m really happy with the fit.
The I-cord as added by picking up the original cast on stitches and then binding off right away in I-cord. The stability added by the edge pulled the whole sweater back up off my shoulders. 
  • The yarn is from Western Sky Knits and I scored it from their booth last spring when I went to the Interweave Yarn Fest. This yarn is seriously yummy!
  • Koivua is also done, but I still have some finishing to do with it. Next post!
  • Oh, yeah. I had a birthday last month and in a moment of weakness (it’s my birthday…. I get to have what I want!!) I bought some yarn. Okay, maybe a lot of yarn. It is really nice, however. I should probably write about how I’m doing on the yarn destash project… That will be another post!!
  • The weather change was really abrupt and dramatic. One day we were almost 80°F here in the Denver area, and then we dropped into the 20’s the next day and the drop just kept going overnight taking us into the single digits by the next morning. Crazy, huh. I moved plants and covered what I could, but the garden is basically gone now. Poor flowers!