flowergirl knits

flowers, cats and knitting

Category: Cats

The Blob That Ate a House Cat

(Actually, no cat was harmed during this photo session. In fact, Toby barely opened his eyes from his nap!)

The Shetland Triangle is finished, but remains in a Blob state. I’ve ordered more foam blocking squares which should arrive any day and then I’ll be able to block it – this sucker is huge! The plan is to use this as an “exterior” shawl/scarf/wrap and wear it over my new fall coat. However, being solidly Midwestern and not even a little bit French, I’m not sure this’ll work. It sounds great in my head, but reality doesn’t always line up for me. More details and pictures when it’s been blocked.

I’ve also been busy preparing for Sweater Knitting Season (which officially opens on September 1 – something I just made up) Sweaters have been qued, patterns have been secured, yarn has been purchased and swatched and needles acquired. (Because, according to the Great Needle Conspiracy – another thing I just made up – you never have the right size/length/type of needle and must buy new needles for each and every project. Or so it seems.) I have plans to knit something like 57 sweaters this winter, a number that even I know is ridiculous but, that is the optimism of the Season. Happy Sweater Hunting!

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New Year’s Resolutions, 2009

Here we are with a bright shiny new year, full of optimism and possibilities. And lists. Everyone is making a list of resolutions so that this new year doesn’t go to waste. And by everyone I mean – everyone.

Toby is never shy about sharing his opinion

Toby’s New Year’s Resolutions, 2009

1. Eat more tuna.

2. Ingest more catnip. Lots more.

3. Sleep at least 18 hours a day.

4. Continue refresher training of human servant.

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Izzy's glamour shot

1. Eat more turkey.

2. Maintain fur to current high standards of softness and beauty.

3. Sleep at least 18 hours a day.

4. Smack Toby when he gets out of line (i.e. daily)

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Ann’s New Year’s Resolutions, 2009

1. Knit mittens. This was on last year’s list too yet I didn’t knit a single mitten in 2008! Not for lack of yarn or patterns or desire just that other things (both life-related and knitting-related) got in the way. Not only are mittens fun and portable, they’re ideal for practicing colorwork and stranding working toward the eventual goal of knitting fair isle sweaters.

2. Knit from the stash as much as possible, and when I do purchase yarn (because we all know it’s going to happen), do so with some thought. Clara Parkes recently posted a wonderful article about Slow Stashing, a movement that many seem to be embracing. I have a lot of really beautiful yarn so it’s not exactly a hardship to knit from my stash. I’ve allowed myself a couple of yarn-buying options – I have some credit built up at Eat Sleep Knit, Webs usually has a big sale in the spring, I’m planning on going to Stitches Midwest in the fall – but first, look at the stash.

3. Organizing. I made huge progress on this last year, I just need to keep going.  This applies to my desk and my house, but also jives nicely with the Slow Stashing movement which asks you to go through your yarn and eliminate anything that doesn’t make you happy – sell it, donate it, throw it out. It’s amazing how much better you feel without this mental baggage.

4. Be Healthy. This applies to all things to do with physical and mental health – good food, exercise, having fun. I’m a big fan of doing things in small doses – a 10 minute walk may not be good training for a marathon, but it gets you up and moving and out in the fresh air. And it adds up. The fun part is easy – more time with the cats and the garden, finding reasons to laugh at every opportunity, doing things I love.

Wishing you all a happy, healthy New Year filled with laughter and hand knits!

Question….

Izzy, helping with blocking

Why do cats feel that it’s necessary for them to curl up on wet wool?

I suppose part of it might be the earthy smell of wet wool, and I know that, even when wet, wool has a high capacity for warmth. Still, for creatures that are deeply concerned with keeping themselves warm and dry, it seems counter-intutitve to perch yourself on wet wool.

Maybe the best answer is that cats are a bit crazy (but cute!)

Together at Last

happy socks

Look at this happy pair; don’t they look good together? That’s the thing about socks – they’re happier (and more useful) in pairs.

I don’t usually have a problem with Second Sock Syndrome – the second sock goes on the needles as soon as I finish the first – but because of several gift knits and non-knitting obligations I was forced to set this pair aside after finishing the first one back in April. Happily, now they’re together at last. It was worth the wait.

Pattern: Twisted Tulip Socks by Chrissy Gardiner

impressive (but easy) motifs

Yarn: ShuBuiKnits Sock, colorway “Jonquil”

Isabel approves

Notes: I absolutely love these socks. The pattern was huge fun – there have been a few rumblings from some knitters about the charts used for this pattern, but I found that once I figured out how the pattern was building, it made perfect sense and was easy to follow. I did have to follow those charts carefully; this isn’t the kind of pattern you can memorize, nor does it travel very well. And even though it looks very complicated, it’s really just relatively simple stitches used cleverly to build a pattern. I love the narrow lace patterns on the sides of the leg and foot, and the serpentine traveling stitch panels along the central tulip motif. Very fun! Also, they fit perfectly.

As before, I love ShuBui sock yarn – subtle colors, substantial yarn which allows the cables and twisted stitches to pop, the soft finished fabric – all perfectly lovely.

And now I can have blooming tulips all year round.

They Grow Up So Fast

Today is the birthday for my All-Around What-Would-I-Do-Without-Them Helpers.

And by Helpers, I mean Troublemakers.

Toby loves to lay on empty egg cartons. I don't know why.

Toby and Izzy are nine years old today. They’re from the same litter and, although they have similar coloring, they’re very different personalities.

Izzy is sweet sweet sweet, she loves people and is usually very calm. She often brings me toys, meowing the whole time, and will chase it down and bring it back to me again and again. Once she got shut in a closet for half a day while I was at work (I did NOT put her in the closet; she snuck in herself and I didn’t notice) When I got home and let her out she wasn’t upset, but followed me around, meow meow meowing, telling me all about her adventure.

Izzy loves to lay in the sun because she's a smart cat.

Toby is trouble and that’s it. He’s bossy and opinionated and when he wants something he wants it RIGHT NOW. He also purrs almost constantly; I’ve never known a cat to purr so much. He even purrs at the vets (which he loves going to); the only time he stopped purring there was one time when they had to gently pull his third eyelid up to make sure there was nothing caught behind it (there wasn’t and his eye problem soon cleared up). He rides on my shoulders a lot and loves to be up high.

I’ve been lucky with these two in that they don’t disturb my yarn too much (although I’m careful to put it away when I’m not using it) They do occasionally bat at a needle or try to sit on a work in progress (while I’m knitting), but mostly they co-exist peacefully.

I really don’t know what I’d do without these two; there’s something wonderful and comforting about pets. I simply adore these two and wouldn’t trade them for anything.

Now if you’ll excuse me, His and Her Majestys’ require that their servant come feed them…

American Beauty for an All-American Lady

silk scarf glamour shot

Still catching up (as if one can ever be caught up!) This is a project from June, a silk scarf I made as a birthday gift for my Mom. My Mom turned 88 on July 1 (she’s in excellent health and has more energy – and a busier social life! – than I do) She’s part of that “greatest generation” – she grew up on a farm during the Great Depression and came of age during World War II. She also managed to survive raising myself and my two brothers into reasonable citizens of the world.

Toby points out the lovely stitch definition

Every life, of course, is unique and interesting, but I think my Moms’ has a chapter that is especially fascinating – she served as a US Army Nurse during World War II (her unit, the 217th, first served in England, landed on Normandy Beach on D-Day+70, then was based in Paris until the end of the war). Her stories filled my childhood with images of cow pastures in France and U-boat scares while crossing the Atlantic and their Paris hospital wards overflowing with wounded during the Battle of the Bulge. I picked up my love of history from my Dad, and my Mom was able to fuel that interest with history made real, an amazing and priceless opportunity. So, to celebrate a special life, a special gift – a hand-made lace scarf, knit in silk in a gorgeous jewel-tone red.

Pattern: Vine Lace Scarf No. 186 by Tilli Thomas

Yarn: Tilli Thomas Pure and Simple (100% silk); colorway American Beauty

Notes: This was a fun and fairly quick knit. The pattern is simple and easy to memorize, but interesting enough that it didn’t get boring. This is the first time I’ve knit with silk and this yarn was lovely – very soft with a nice sheen. Silk is not as elastic as wool, but was generally easy to work with. I especially like the color – a very rich red with subtle variations that did not detract from the pattern, but added depth. A fun project (and I got it done on time!)

The Knitters Book of Yarn by Clara Parkes

I was the very happy recipient of a fabulous new yarn book yesterday – The Knitters Book of Yarn by Clara Parkes. This has been on my amazon wishlist since I first saw it. The first part of the book talks about – you guessed it – yarn; the different fibers available, why some yarns work better for a project than others, the uses of yarns of various plies. While this section is very educational, it is also written with a light touch that makes reading about the world of fiber almost as much fun as knitting with it. I’m not a spinner, so a lot of this information is new to me and this book has taught me a lot already.

A really great feature of the book is that there are 40 patterns included. 40 is a huge number, so as you might imagine, there is something for just about everyone (although nothing really for the guys) I’m especially intrigued by the sock patterns, especially the Wavy Socks and the Guernsey Socks, some of the mitts such as the Princess Mitts and the Maine Morning Mitts, and the Norwegian Snail Mittens, but this is just the tip of the iceberg and I keep going back and looking at more and more of the patterns. My absolute favorite is the Cabled Tea Cozy knit with Malabrigo yarn. A tea cozy seems a little silly but something about the combination of cables and yarn and colors – yum.

The yellow Twisted Tulip socks are progressing. Did I mention, the pattern is crazy complicated? As in, crazy? It’s not particularly hard – just knits and purls and simple cables; it’s the combination of cables that makes it complicated (and the tiny needles and yarn maybe). It is not an intuitive pattern for me, I need to read each line of the chart and check it over and over as I knit. As it is, I made a fairly big mistake on the cuff, completely missing cables on several rows. It’s now an “interpretive design feature”. Haha! It doesn’t disturb the overall pattern and will probably only be noticed by me (and now you, I guess!) It’s also, as you might imagine, a v e r y  s l o w pattern to knit. I have some extra time this weekend; I hope to get at least one sock finished or close to.

Finally, in case you haven’t heard, there’s a major fundraiser going on over on Ravelry. I’m a big fan of Ravelry and believe it’s making me a better knitter and really pushing me to try new skills. if you haven’t joined, I recommend it highly. If you do belong, and you love it as much as I do, I urge you to donate. Check out Frick Knits blog for details. (And hey, it doesn’t hurt that a bunch of beautiful prizes are going to be handed out!) Here’s my little ad for Ravelraiser – I used a picture of Toby sleeping on yarn and added a LOL caption (my first attempt at this)

See, I’m even learning non-knitting skills from Ravelry! The fun never stops.

Knitting Swag

White Willow sock bagI didn’t really need a new sock bag to carry my latest project – I already have a lovely Piddleloop bag – but come on – take a look at that fabric! Cats! Knitting and playing with yarn! It was a no-brainer. This is from Brooke at White Willow. Customer service was excellent – Brooke had emailed me to alert me that there would be a slight delay in shipping; in fact the bag arrived very quickly with no noticeable delay.

The bag itself, beyond the fabric, is absolutely lovely – sturdy enough to stand up on it’s own, but soft enough to stuff into my purse or a larger tote. It’s beautifully constructed with lots of attention to detail. There’s even a swivel hook sock bag close-upattached to the outside of the bag so that you can clip the bag to your purse strap or belt loop and knit while walking. I think I won’t be doing that – I have enough trouble walking and thinking at the same time! But it will be handy for clipping a stitch counter or pair of scissors to – anything small that you don’t want to lose. All in all – excellent.

And did you notice? Kitties! Playing with yarn! And knitting! Happy!!

The Not Martha’s Blocking Board

Now that I’m knitting sweaters in earnest, it became obvious that I needed something to block them on. A towel laid over the carpet works in a pinch, but I wanted something a little more substantial, and easier to use with pins. I’ve been eying the official blocking boards that are offered for sale, but the prices left me cold ($89!) That’s a lot of sock yarn. So I did a little investigating into homemade versions (the Ravelry forums are great for this) and cobbled together my own version which came in at just under $15.

First I started with two foam core boards, purchased from Michael’s. They’re about $5 each but I had a coupon so that helped lower my cost. Be sure to choose the 1/2″ thick boards which will hold the pins a little better. My boards are 20″x30″ which is a standard, easily available size.

Next, at Hobby Lobby, I purchased two yards of fabric to cover the boards. I planned on looking at ginghams but found this great black and white checked fabric; the squares are 1 inch which is handy. Any fabric with straight lines would work. The fabric I choose was slightly more expensive than plain gingham but I still paid less than $8 for it (and I probably could have gotten away with 1 1/2 yards)

And then at Staples I bought a packet of T-pins – 100 for under $3. If you do use pins from the office supply store rather than the fabric store, you will want to check that they don’t rust; so far I haven’t had any problem with my Staples pins.

After washing the fabric I cut pieces to fit each board with plenty of overlap. Then I simply used duct tape (which I already had on hand) and taped the lightly stretched fabric across the board. (Color coordinated cats not necessary and in fact, not really recommended) I didn’t add a layer of quilt batting between the board and the fabric, or a piece of plastic to protect the board from the wet knit pieces. So far, I don’t miss these extras – the pins work perfectly in the board alone and the knitting to be blocked is damp, not sopping wet and haven’t hurt the board.

It is certainly not the most scientific or fancy (or beautiful) blocking board, but it works as demonstrated by the back piece of my Central Park Hoodie. And if a piece of the blocking system needs to be replaced at some point, the cost will be minimal. The only thing I would have liked different is the size of the board – 20 inches across is just barely wide enough. Of course, it will be simple enough to pin or tape the two boards together if I do need a larger surface. As it is, these boards are super light and portable, fitting easily behind my craft table out of the way until needed again.

At this rate I’m going to turn into a real knitter yet!

It’s like having my own, personal LYS…

…except, of course, without the helpful staff or giant selection of accessories and notions and needles or the huge yarn inventory (although I’m not doing too badly in the needle and yarn department) What I mean, of course, is Knitting from My Stash, one of my knitting resolutions for 2008.

In preparation for this worthy cause and to make it as easy as possible to succeed (I can use all the help I can get), I went through my stash to figure out exactly what I have. Now, to be honest, my stash is pretty modest; many knitters would think it’s even anemic. The fact remains, I’ve got plenty of yarn for one person – I seem to have a fairly strong hoarding instinct. This stash knitting is not forever mind you, just for the next few months. And so, for the next few months, I’m going to try to knit with what I’ve already got.

I discovered that I had yarn for four sweaters, one vest, two pairs of mittens and at least four scarves and/or hats; these are projects with patterns already acquired and does not count the tweed beret that is languishing while I think about it or the linen/hemp yarn bought on impulse for a purse pattern or the stash of cotton yarn intended for dishcloths. I did not bother to count the sock yarn – I fondled it and ooh’ed and ahh’ed over it and kind of just wallowed in it soft and colorful beauty, but I wasn’t silly enough to actually count it and realize in cold hard facts just how nutty I am. See the box with the blue lid? That’s all sock yarn and nothing but sock yarn and while the lid fits, I did have to do a little pushing and shoving. Needless to say, there’s plenty of sock yarn for all of the sock patterns I currently have in mind and for several that haven’t been written yet….

As you can see, Izzy likes sock yarn too. Smart girl.

Then I organized – I love to organize stuff. All of the yarn bought for specific patterns went into their own zippy bag (I also love zippy bags) along with a copy of the pattern. They’re all neatly lined up in the big basket in the picture. It’s like having kits all ready to grab and knit! Cool! Odds and ends, leftovers, the cotton yarn – all of that is in the box on the bottom. The scarf yarn is in a bag to one side, not seen in this picture. Needles went into another zippy bag. It feels good to be organized – just like a yarn shop! (kinda)

I am going to make a couple of exceptions to my Knit from My Stash project (hey, I’m the President, Treasurer and sole Member of this club – I can make up my own rules!) One is that, as it gets warmer and I start coming across cotton sweaters for spring and summer, I’ll allow the buying of some appropriate cotton yarn (I already have one pattern in mind) Another is I’d like to knit a lap blanket for my Mom; when I’ve decided on the yarn and pattern (still pondering) I’ll go ahead and purchase. I also have a gift certificate to a fabulous yarn shop that is not local but I’ll be visiting in May or June and I’ll certainly be buying something there. And I recently bought the fabulous mitten book Selbuvotter by Teri Shea; I’ll be buying some yarn for these projects but I’ll probably start with Palette yarn from KnitPicks which has a nice range of colors and very reasonable prices – easily under $15 for several skeins (because saving money is also part of Knitting from My Stash)

Exceptions are nice – they give you something to look forward to and help you keep on track!