Sweater Troubles

This is all the fault of Ravelry designer Caitlin Hunter. I’m busy knitting away on her Tegna sweater (for the second time… I made one of these last month and I discovered that I needed another) and I have gotten above the lace section at the bottom and am now cruising through the plain knitting section.

Lace detail on knitting.
See. Cruising through the simple stockinette rounds. Easy-peasy, but kind of boring…

I have really picked up speed now that I am above the lace. Woohoo! I may have this done in another week depending on how much I wander off to knit other things like socks because, well, it is just a tad boring… my mind wanders. I start to dream of other projects and about things that I want to do. I think about books I want to read. I think about mowing the lawn. I think about what I want to cook for dinner. I start to plan the next sweater and then I go on a mental wander of yarn stash. Hmm… what is in there? What should I knit next?

I take knitting breaks to drag out yarn in the colors and weights that I think might work for my next project. I go back to knitting, and then on the next break I head back to the stash to pull out another couple skeins that I just remembered. I have literally woken up in the morning thinking of another possible yarn/color combination. The yarn, stored in plastic lock-top bins, starts to stack up next to my knitting chair. My mind wanders more…

Today I dragged out 4 skeins of wild fuchsia painted yarn that my BKB Deb convinced me to buy a few months ago out to the back deck to look at it in the sun with different contrasting yarn combinations. I’m thinking of colorwork here…

Yarn.
Choice #1
Yarn
Choice #2
Yarn
Choice #3

I fussed and worried about my choice, kept looking at how the yarns played with each other, and finally decided on choice #2 as it calmed down the wild colors a little and blended better with the dark undertones in the main color fuchsia yarn. So, what will this be? You are looking at my next project, a Sipila (by Caitlin Hunter) long sleeved sweater that should be done just in time for late summer/early fall.

Kitted up sweater waiting to be knit.
Here is the sweater all packed up and ready to be taken out later when I start knitting.

But wait… I also found this fabulous Uncommon Thread yarn in the colorway Brasselthwaite lurking in the back of the stash.

Yarn.
Look at this yarn! This is dying to get knit up into a sweater. Look at those shades of blue.

At first I though that this yarn wanted to be a Zweig (by Caitlin Hunter) sweater and I matched it up with a yummy gold cashmere blend yarn that I bought from Western Sky Knits to make the lace yoke for the sweater.

Yarn
See, won’t this look great? I love how these colors go together.

Here’s the problem… I have all of this yarn that I’ve dragged down to the knitting arena to go through during knitting breaks. I keep finding colors that I really liked. I kept thinking of different combinations of colors. I had my heart set on some colorwork. Gee, Caitlin Hunter has some really nice colorwork sweaters…

Yarn
Seriously, doesn’t this look like the makings of a kick-ass Sunset Highway sweater? All of these yarns are part cashmere and the same yardage in each 100 gram skein. It’s a sign. I have to make the Sunset Highway!

If I knitted a Sunset Highway I could use the Uncommon Thread for the body and the other three colors would make the colorwork yoke. I really like these colors… I really liked the idea of making the Zweig… I have a lot of skeins of grey yarns with little flecks of color… can I maybe fade them together to make the Zweig, but if I do that , what will I use for the lace section? Hmm… I wonder what is in the stash?

I am knitting like the wind now on the Tegna, and as I stitch I mull over my sweater options. So many sweaters, so much yarn. My goal is to use as much yarn as I can from the stash without heading off to the LYS to buy more. I’m trying. Really, I am. I am determined to have a stash that has shrunk by the end of summer.

So, I have gone down the Caitlin Hunter sweater rabbit hole. Just a little bit…

I am having sweater troubles for sure. May you all have the same. 🙂

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MacKenzie Speaks: Another Tegna?! (The Mother of Cats is out of control…)

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Hot Cat
It is still hot here. 

The Mother of Cats and I are still staying inside every day because of the heat. You’d think that she would devote herself to helping me cope with the unacceptable weather, wouldn’t you? I mean, look at this fur! Nope. She just turned on a ceiling fan for me and went about her business. I’m not sure she really loves me… She spends more time babying her plants outside then she does me. How could I come in second to a rose? Ridiculous!!

Tea Rose
She has managed to get one of her tea roses to bloom.
Hydrangea
Her hydrangea that she bought this spring really got cooked by the heat (check out those crispy leaves…), but it has put out some new blooms too. Yep, you guessed it. She fusses over this plant more than me too!

When she isn’t outside ignoring me and feeding her plants she spends her time downstairs knitting away on new projects. She started two new ones this week, and would you believe that she started another Tegna sweater?

Swatch
She even made a swatch this time. This yarn is cotton and linen and she wasn’t sure about the gauge (whatever that is… Yellow Boy wants to know if it is a kind of bug…), so she had to try out different needle sizes.
Paw on yarn.
I helped her with that!
Cat and Knitting.
I closely supervised her work, and after a week look at what we have accomplished!
Lace detail on knitting.
Ta-da! Looking good, huh.

She took a break from the sweater over the weekend and made a sock. So cool. So perfect to sleep in my bed with me. Did she put cat nip into it and let me have it? Nope! I’ve discussed this before, but with the Mother of Cats it is always NOPE!!

Yarn
This is the yarn that she started with…
Sock.
…and here is her sock. She plans to make the second one this coming weekend.

So that was the whole week. She did go off and leave us from time to time, and there was some reading, but whatever. What is important is that she spends her time with me.

Cat and Knitting.
Tonight we are back to knitting the sweater.  Finally I am getting the attention that I deserve: grooming, petting, cookies. Lots of cookies!

I’m such a good boy. Do you see how much I am helping the Mother of Cats?

Can I have some cooking now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • I bought this cotton/linen yarn to make a cute lacy summer top but I was not able to get the gauge that I needed, and because of the lace it was going to be hard to adapt the pattern, and knitting tightly on small needles hurt my hands. Total fail. The solution? Another Tegna! I am so happy with the first one I knit and I think that this one will be a nice layering piece as fall arrives with the longer sleeves I’m going to put on it. My Ravelry notes are here.
  • Poor garden. Even though the heat goes on it is more humid now and plants are doing better. I feed everything in the hopes that roses will bloom again; so far only the tea roses in pots are responding well. That hydrangea is in a pot as I can’t decide where to plant it. I think that it is going to need shade at least part of the day. Poor thing; it really got fried in the first location I tried out. I’m wondering if it can winter indoors in the pot with a grow light on it. Hmmm…
  • The socks are another of the vanilla sock pattern Dave. I’m having fun playing with the colors. My Ravelry project notes are here.

MacKenzie Speaks: Knitting in the Time of Thunder

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Cat
Once again the Mother of Cats has been disappointing in her priorities…

It has been horrible here for days and days. The days have been dark, there are huge booms, and so much water has fallen out of the sky it makes my tail curl. Seriously, Yellow Boy has been hiding in the closet for days, and I have to admit that I’ve been going to ground there myself.

Does the Mother of Cats come to comfort me the way she should? Does she double up the number of cookies to help me deal with all of this stress? No, she does not. She has been a big disappointment for days!

Yarn and knitting.
She found all of this yarn in the yarn playground (she calls it a stash…) that she decided to make into a sweater.
Cat and Knitting.
She has been knitting away on the sweater for days and days…

Normally I would love to hang out with the Mother of Cats while she is knitting, but this yarn is made of cotton and tencel. It is boring. It tastes terrible when I chomp it. The Mother of Cats did give me some pieces to play with, but why bother? Now if she would just take a few minutes to knit me a cute little mouse stuffed with catnip out of this yarn… I would even share it with Yellow Boy. Really, the Mother of Cats needs to be more caring of others, don’t you think?

Growing sweater.
Just as the sweater was getting to an interesting length she became bored with it…
Sock yarns.
…and pulled out these sock kits that she bought one day when she left me alone to go play with sheep and other funny smelling things up in the mountains.  

She struggled with her decision, but finally she picked the yarns in the middle of the picture and I helped her get them all wound up into cat toy cakes. What would the Mother of Cats do without my help?

Sock knitting
Before you knew it she was making a sock!

That sock yarn is superwash wool, but did she let me chomp it? No, she did not! It thundered and rained again this weekend so I hid out with Yellow Boy in our safe zone in the closet for just hours and hours, and when we came out…

Sock
The first sock was done!

Yay! I think that the sock would be fun to play with too; a little catnip seasoning would make it perfect! Did she give it to me? Nope! Always, with the Mother of Cats, it is nope, nope, nope. I even ask nicely, too!

Cat sleeping on bed.
Tonight it is nice and calm outside and it is even cool.

This evening the thunder has stopped and it is nice outside. The birds are singing like crazy and Yellow Boy has come out of the closet and is standing by the back door hoping to see a bug. Not me. I’m just exhausted by all the thunder excitement and the knitting. I’m taking advantage of the break in the weather to catch a little cat nap.

Maybe when I wake up the Mother of Cats will give me some cookies.

I’m such a good boy!

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • The sweater is the Throwback Tee on Ravelry, and my project notes are here.
  • That wonderful sock yarn is from Western Sky Knits, and I bought it all when I lost control in her booth at the Estes Park Wool Market.
  • The sock pattern is a vanilla sock called Dave from Rachel Coopey. I am going with a really simple sock to show off the yarn, because, hello! It is so gorgeous!
  • Today should be the last day in a cycle of thunderstorms and rain. Starting tomorrow the sun will be back out and the heat machine is back on! Welcome to summer, kitties.

Science and the Scleroderma Girl: Get Ready for the Rants!

Yep. This has all been about me needing to vent about all the alternative medicine and false information out there that is directed at people who are seeking to manage chronic conditions, lower their cancer risk, improve their lives, boost their immune systems, or just be more healthy.

There is so much coming at me that I would be a total victim if I didn’t have a way to sort through things. It is all presented as “scientific”, backed by “studies”, and supported by numerous testimonials. Often I am pressured by other people to adopt their products, treatment plans, or dietary guidelines, sometimes to an unacceptable degree.  The message “it’s your fault that you’re sick because you won’t do what I say” is out there, and I am surely not the only person to have been targeted by this.

Knitting.
Mostly I just ignore them and knit on. What do you think about my newest Close to You shawl? This yarn is from Western Sky Knits, and the colorway is called Nova.

Here’s the advice that comes my way:

  • Stop taking your drugs. The doctors don’t know what they are doing, and the side effects are unacceptable. (Really… this happens a lot!)
  • You can get well if you:
    • Follow the AP Protocol by going to an alternative medicine doctor
    • Never eat any processed or artificial foods
    • Only use natural products and eat organic
    • Only eat alkaline foods
  • You cannot consume any:
    • Salt
    • Sugar
    • Alcohol
    • Gluten
    • Dairy
    • Processed foods
    • Transfats
    • Seeds
  • You have to supplement your diet every day with :
    • Probiotics
    • Prebiotics
    • Turmeric
    • Cinnamon
    • Fish Oil
    • Vitamin D
    • Alkaline water
    • Tart cherry
    • Natural cider vinegar
  • You can treat your symptoms with:
    • Essential oils
    • Reflexology
    • Exercise
    • High fiber foods
    • Heat
    • Cold
    • Amber beads
    • Magnetic bracelets
    • Herbal tea
    • Aloe vera
  • Your disease was caused by:
    • A chemical exposure
    • Vaccines
    • That viral illness that you had sometime in the past
    • Leaky gut

Truly, if I wasn’t feeling overwhelmed by the fatigue, brain fog and all the other things that I deal with, having this all come my way is way over the top. Ugh. It is a lot of information, some reliable, some not so reliable, and some just plain false, for me to sort through.

Get ready!! The mini-rants are just ahead as I unpack as much of this as I can for you in the days ahead.

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. 🙂

Dreaming and Fading…

I’ve been just cranking on my What the Fade?! shawl for the last week or so since I last wrote about it. Once I had bid the brioche section at the top of the shawl goodbye it was garter time… lots of garter. This is really easy knitting even with the fun of the fading, and MacKenzie and I have just settled in to binge watch Netflix and crank out the rows of changing colors.

Knitting
The shawl is now so big that I can’t get it open for a picture, but you can still get an idea of how it looks. I just finished fading in that light blue speckle, and there are two more colors to go before I’m done. My project notes on Ravelry are here.

Here’s the thing… I’m doing a lot of dreaming about yarn colors and projects while I’m knitting. It makes things worse that I still have the fabulous Western Sky Knits yarns that I bought at the Interweave Yarn Fest last month still out on display to encourage my dreaming. I already blogged about this yarn: check this out if you want to see my fabulous dream-inducing colors! I’ve been reorganizing the yarn stash and going through my patterns between bouts of knitting, and then I kind of slip into a garter stitch, color-induced waking dream state where I match color/yarn ideas with patterns to decide on projects.

So, with no further ado, let me introduce you to the line-up of May and June projects:

Yarn for sweater
The blue tonal Posh Fingering yarn from the Uncommon Thread has been hanging out in my stash for about a year waiting for the right project. I just love this golden brown from WSK, and it also is 10% cashmere. Perfect match! I’m going to make a Zweig sweater from them, and the golden brown will be the lace yoke in the sweater. I can’t wait to get going on this, and every time I think of how cool this sweater will be the garter stitch pace in my Fade shawl picks up.
Yarn and pattern.
I absolutely love this skein of painted cashmere blend yarn from WSK. Don’t you think that it will look great with the Zweig sweater? I love the look of this little shawl, and I’m thinking that I should transform some of the handpainted Christmas yarn in my stash into scarfs like these for gifts. But not now. Now I have to knit all of this fabulous yarn that is calling to me.
Yarn.
These two yarns are my absolute favorites. I want to make a shawl that shows the two off really well, but not too crazy in the pattern. I’m not completely committed to it yet, but I’m pretty sure that I’m going to make Albuquerque Sunset by Casapinka with this yarn. Did I mention that I just bought a light pink summer top? Perfect!
Yarn and pattern.
Last but not least, how about a simple summer tee that will use up some of the cotton yarn in the stash and show off the colors of the shawls? Yep! I’m hoping that these Throwback Tees will just fly off of my needles, because I’m going to need them to go with these shawls!

See why I’m knitting so fast? Look at these fabulous yarns and great patterns! Actually there is a lot more where this came from. I just checked, and I have 25 items in my knitting Queue on Raverly, 1,122 patterns in my library, another 159 patterns in my Ravelry shopping basket, and a world class yarn stash. This is all kind of overwhelming if you think about it too much, which is why it is hard to finalize decisions. The last couple of days things just fell into place and I made a list of knitting decisions and kitted up the yarn with the appropriate pattern.

Then I went back to knitting my fade and dreaming of what to do with the colors I have left over. Dreaming of yarn and the beautiful, useful objects that I can make from them.

What can be better than that?

In case you’re wondering… I am still in the middle of testing to clarify the cause of my worsening scleroderma-related symptoms. This week I head in to see another doctor and will get my echocardiogram done; after my heart is sorted out I can get the pulmonary testing that I need. Right now the discussion is mostly about my heart, but they are still gathering data so no definitive diagnosis yet. Through all of this I’m just rocking my knitting and refusing to worry about what I can’t change. Tomorrow I’m planting more flowers in my garden! Peace on, everyone!

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.