Still Life, With Cats

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L is for Lace

When I start a lace project, I usually get really obsessive about it and finish it pretty quickly. Except when something goes horribly wrong, and then the project goes into time out and sometimes never gets touched again (Heere There Be Dragone, I’m looking at you).

I started my most recent project back in March, eagerly diving into lace after spending February knitting nothing but test projects and dishcloths. I picked Regrowth as the pattern primarily because 1) it is really pretty, and 2) it is adjustable at every step, and I had a skein of gradient yarn that I wanted to make the most of.

Things were going along swimmingly until I was in the final section of the project – the edging chart, at which point I had a few billion stitches on the needles. Okay, possibly I exaggerate; it was only a couple hundred, but it sure *felt* like a few billion by that point. And then disaster struck. My interchangeable needles unscrewed just enough so that the stitches caught on the join, and as a result I dropped a whole bunch of stitches. Worse, when I tried to pick them back up again, a couple of them laddered down. I tried undoing just that small section a few rows down, but that only made things worse. By the time I finally gave up, I’d come to the realization that the only way to fix it was to unravel at least six rows back; maybe more. I stuffed the project into my bag and decided it (and I) needed a time out.

This month, however, a friend and I have come up with our next knit-along project (another Niebling pattern that is likely going to involve no small amount of swearing due to the size and complexity). I knew I really wanted to get the current lace project finished before I cast on for a new one. So I finally pulled it out of the bag and grimly spent several hours undoing row after row (final count – 8 rows, several thousand stitches) until I’d gotten back to a point where everything was okay. Ugh.

Thankfully, though, once I slogged through the worst of it, finishing it up was quick. I did a quick block (ha, ‘quick’) tonight with judicious use of the blow dryer because due to the fact that our spare room is occupied by kittens, I have nowhere with enough floor space to block a project of this size that is safe from certain grey cats who think it is oodles of fun to flop around on my lace and pull pins out with their teeth.

So here it is, in all its gradient glory.

And here is a closer shot that shows the actual motifs in the pattern.


I had a rough idea of how much yarn each row would take and by the end of it, I was weighing the remainder every 2 rows, so I could make sure I’d have enough to finish. As it was, after I bound off, on a whim I decided to weigh what was left. Less than 1 gram. I’m not sure I could have cut it any closer if I’d tried.

The letter L is brought to you by the Blogging from A to Z Challenge

J is for Jars

In our house, you cannot drink anything cold out of a regular water glass. This is because in our house, we have Rupert, a determined grey tabby who has made it his mission to tip over any glass of cold liquid he can find. And it’s not as if he’s just trying to drink out of the cup and it tips; no, he will sneak up, hook his paw over one edge, and deliberately tip it over, just to watch the mess .

This has led me to a continual search for ‘Rupert-safe cups’ – basically any drinking vessel with a sturdy lid, in which cold liquid will be safe even if overturned.

As a canner, I own a rather large collection of glass jars, in all shapes and sizes. So I was thrilled when I discovered that canning jar manufacturers have come out with screw-on lids that include a hole into which you can place a straw, essentially allowing you to repurpose canning jars into trendy ‘hipster’ glasses. Of course, glass jars are heavy, and cold liquid leads to condensation, which leads to the need for a coaster for the jar. Also, a heavy, wet, glass jar is prone to slipping when you try to grab it off the table.

Pint-closeupSo back in February, in the midst of my Dishcloth-a-Day personal challenge, I noodled around with some dishcloth cotton and came up with these. I started first with the quart jar size, because that’s what I happened to be drinking out of at the time, and then made some adjustments and did the smaller pint jar size next.

Over the past month or so, I’ve had a coworker test drive the smaller version for me, and had a couple friends do some quick tech edits of the pattern itself. I’ve also been using both cozies on a regular basis, making sure that they worked the way they were intended.

Pint-handleshotOverall, I’m pretty happy with the cozies. The ribbing allows the cozy to fit snugly around the jar, while the handle provides some much-needed stability when you’re picking it up. The cozy is knit all in one piece; so there is no seaming, and the entire thing is knit in the round. Made out of cotton, they’re easy to toss into the washer and dryer, ready to be used whenever you’re in the mood for a cold (or hot) beverage. And bonus, it means I get to have a big glass of ice cold water near me at all times, without having to worry about tracking down a coaster, and also without having to worry about chasing off a persistent grey tabby cat.

Want to make some Hipster Jar Cozies for yourself? As of today, the pattern is now available for purchase and download via Ravelry. Enjoy!

The letter J is brought to you by the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Bonus Round

So yes, I know that technically the month of daily dishcloths was supposed to be over as of yesterday. But I woke up at about 5:30 this morning, worrying about Rosie and the weird hole in her mouth, and so I went upstairs to check on her (she demanded food, so all was as usual), and then sat down on the couch and stared at the remnants of my cotton stash. I started working on another boring garter stitch square (this time with stripes), but then realized I just couldn’t do it. Not more garter stitch. So I ripped it all out and started over and noodled around until I came up with something a little different. Each pattern repeat reminds me a little of zipper teeth, so I have dubbed it Zip It!

Zip It - 2 color

(I would like to point out, for the record, that what you see here includes the VERY LAST of the teal yarn. Let the cheering commence.)

Once that was done, I scribbled some notes and stared at the cluster of tiny little balls of yarn still remaining and I thought hmm, I bet this would work great with scraps. And so then I knit up Zip It! number two.

Zip It - multicolor

I’ve been working today on firming up the pattern for the thing I spent most of yesterday on (including an awesome photo shoot with some very accommodating friends), but that isn’t quite ready to share. So instead I wrote up the Zip It! pattern, and uploaded it to Ravelry, and have made it available for free. You can download it via Ravelry here.

And with that, I believe I am finally done with the dishcloths. Grand total for this little personal challenge: 32 dishcloths.


Boy oh boy, if I ever need to do some serious cleaning, I think I’m now ready.

Tied off

So for the past few months I’ve been working on some Christmas presents. Well, okay, if we’re going to be correct, technically I’ve been working on a whole lot of other projects, primarily some rather large test knits, with some time spent on presents in the middle. But with the last test knit finished up at the end of November, I took a look at the calendar, and at how much I had left on the presents, and had myself a tiny little panic attack. And then pretty much every single moment where I wasn’t at work or rehearsing for the Vox Musica concerts, or sleeping (because despite my better efforts, I apparently still need some of that), I have been knitting.

I got them all done yesterday. Alas, they were not all completed by the time I handed them over to their recipients, but since we were all sitting around chatting at my parents’ place, I snatched back the two that still needed work (one had ends I’d forgotten to weave in, and the other still had about half the border to complete) and knit as fast as I could until they were finally completed.

(as usual, click to view larger version of any of the pictures)

This is a larger version of the Linus Blanket. I really liked the basketweave texture so I cast on 161 stitches in worsted weight yarn, knit for 20 pattern repeats, and then finished with the garter stitch border and bound off. I’d say it was a hit, if only because my (teenage) nephew pulled it out of the bag, spread it over his legs, and then promptly nodded off to sleep while the rest of the family chatted around him.

Basketweave Blanket

This is a larger version of the Gradient Blanket. I cast on 152 stitches, did a pattern repeat of 18, and kept on going until it was done.

Gradient Blanket

This one is the Lacy Throw, which I made for my sister because while she’s not a girly girl, she’s the only female in a household of males and I thought she ought to have something with a teensy bit of femininity. And I am dead serious when I say that I never even noticed that there was a discrepancy in the dye lot of the yarn I used, the ENTIRE TIME I was knitting it (hence the slightly darker swath there at the top), and it wasn’t until my older sister pointed it out that I realized what happened. She thought I’d done it on purpose, so…uh…yeah. Oops. Headdesk.

Lacy Throw

And finally, this one is a Short Rows Pinwheel. I have made more than one of these because I love, love LOVE the effect you get when you swap the yarn every 2 rows (the entire thing is in garter stitch). We shall not speak, however, of the interminable black hole of knitting that was the knit-on border. This is the one that I was still actively knitting yesterday after giving it to the recipient.


‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

Festively warm

Today is National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day (no, I don’t know who came up with this either, but it’s a thing, so let’s just go with it).

I do not own an ugly Christmas sweater. I am, in fact, not entirely sure I have ever owned one (no, friends and family, that is NOT a go-ahead to get me one). But a few months ago, I knit one.

I may or may not have mentioned that occasionally I do test knitting for various designers and yarn stores and companies. I usually can’t really say much about them beyond fairly generic ‘I am knitting on a thing’ comments, and it is rare that I get to share pictures of them with the general public.

But in honor of it being National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day, I am going to share one of my most recent test knits. Yes, I made one of the sweaters for this collection.

The sweater itself is a basic crew neck. The pattern was then double-knit onto it, which was only difficult because my particular sweater was done in black and so the individual stitches were next to impossible to see. Each of the other sweaters in the collection has similar construction, although some have more complicated bits and pieces (the reindeer comes immediately to mind – those antlers crack me up).

And now I am pondering knitting myself my very own Ugly Christmas Sweater. I would wear that snowman one in a heartbeat, any day of winter, because I think it’s actually kind of adorable. And the elf one is really calling my name (although that one definitely has a more narrow window of use). I’m not sure if it’s because of the stripy sleeves, or the crazy i-cord legs and arms, but I’ve kind of fallen hard for it.

So maybe next year, on National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day, I will have my very own sweater to model. In the meantime, though, you’ll just have to be content with a picture of a sweater I made, on someone else.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

Making use

I like knitting shawls. I especially like knitting lace shawls.

Of course, I never actually *wear* shawls. Or scarves. Or lace of any kind, for that matter. In yet another way in which I fail at being a girl, I never learned the art of accessorizing – I can barely manage to remember to put earrings on, let alone add in any other sort of jewelry, and the thought of somehow having to also figure out additional items of clothing beyond the basics of pants+top+socks & shoes just escapes me completely.

But now I have short hair. *Very* short hair. Which means, now that it is cold and soggy outside, that my neck is often cold. And I have all these knit things, sitting patiently in little folded piles on a shelf. So I have decided I ought to try actually using them.

I realize, as I toss them casually around my shoulders, that I am about as far from fashionable as it is possible to be, and, based on my height and overall shape, that I look far more like a festively decorated fire hydrant. But at least my neck is warm. And the things I make are getting to see the light of day. And I am going to keep this up at least through the next few months in the hopes that maybe, somehow, simply the act of wearing them makes me look like I have half a clue what I am doing.

Here’s the latest thing I made for the warming of my neck: Thunderstorm.


I made this as a test knit for the designer. My colors are actually reversed from the pattern, which wasn’t intentional, but which turned out just fine anyway. Bonus – it’s all made with sock yarn, so it goes nicely into the washer and dryer, and it’s soft and snuggly around my shoulders and by golly, I am going to be the best dressed damn fire hydrant you ever did see this year. Or if nothing else, at least the warmest.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.


I got up this morning and was full of plans for being super productive. But then I got sidetracked by Plants vs Zombies 2, which sort of killed most of the morning. So really, all I managed to do today was scrub down the shower stall (because hoo boy did it need it), go to the library to turn in books and pay my fine (the result of being sick / too busy to go drop stuff off or pick stuff up), and swing by the grocery store to get sour cream and elbow noodles. And then I came home and I spent a couple hours knitting, all the while telling myself that this wasn’t going to work, this really wasn’t going to work. But we knitters, we are a perverse bunch and sometimes it takes a while for us to finally grasp reality. Eventually, though, I finally hit that point where I accepted the inevitable with no small amount of muttered swearing under my breath, so I set it down in disgust and distracted myself by making this Carroty Mac & Cheese for dinner (primarily because we seem to have acquired a rather startlingly large volume of carrots over the past few weekend trips to the farmers market), and oh by the way, you should go to your kitchen right now and make it and then do your best to avoid standing at the counter and shoveling the entire pot into your mouth with a spoon because it is really that good.

Thus fortified with cheese and noodles and enough carrots to surely counteract the rest of it (shut up, leave me my delusions) and having postponed the inevitable as long as I could, I finally sat down and proceeded to rip out exactly 15,680 stitches (yes, that really is an accurate number) and started over again from scratch.

Thankfully there was leftover lemon cake and ice cream to tide me over. Leftover cake and ice cream can soothe a lot of ills, especially when it involves ripping out vast quantities of knitting.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.


On the drive to the farmers market this morning, a Volkswagon bug passed us, going the opposite direction. It was followed by another one, and then another, and then a pair of Volkswagon vans. As we all watched, mouths agape, the vintage Volkswagons continued to putter on by, several dozen of them.

Was there some kind of Volkswagon convention? Was there a parade? Had we just driven by the first wave of the vintage Volkswagon invasion? We have no idea. But it was such a wonderful, lovely thing to see, all those adorable cars and vans driving by.

* * * * *

When one reaches the end of a row and discovers that one still has exactly the number of stitches one was supposed to have, it is perfectly acceptable to give a tiny, impromptu cheer. And if one is doing this at a Lacy Knitting Guild meeting, no one there will even blink an eye, because one is surrounded by people who have plenty of experience knitting things with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of stitches per row, and know only too well the pain of this same scenario *not* working out so well.

* * * * *

I love knitting lace. Seriously, I adore it. It is a toss up between lace and cables which one I prefer more. It is similar to writing a lengthy stored procedure. You have to make sure all your increases / decreases / yarnovers  (or for cables, all your right or left crosses) line up exactly, or else things will go rapidly south, and you will find yourself hunched in a chair over a mess of knitting in your lap, counting backwards down the rows, muttering to yourself and saying words that one probably should not say in polite society, to the point where your spouse recognizes the signs and wisely stays out of the room until you look a bit less stressed. Much like you have to make sure all the parenthesis or end tags line up just right in your code, or else you end up sitting on the floor with sheets and sheets of paper all spread out around you, highlighting tags and muttering to yourself under your breath as you try to track down that *one* thing that is causing everything else to break.

Which, I realize, to a layperson, probably does not sound like fun at all, but seriously, I swear. The time I am happiest when knitting is when I am doing lace or cables, and the more complicated the better. It’s where the magic happens.

* * * * *

Your cat picture of the day – Ingrid, in her preferred sprawling position. She cracks us up when she does this, every single time.


‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

Goal, Set

I like setting goals for myself. I do not always meet them, but sometimes I manage to check all the boxes and do what I set out to do. Case in point – I have now done 2 of the 4 5K runs I promised myself I would do this year. The first was in January, and the second was in May (I didn’t manage to run the whole thing in January, but I *did* run the whole thing in May. Go me!). We’ve registered for the 3rd (in October), and I have an idea for the fourth (which, depending on my own ability, might actually be a 10k, but let’s not get too excited about that just yet), plus I’m looking out more long term and have agreed to run Bay to Breakers next May with a group. I am currently ignoring the fact that Bay to Breakers involves at least one nasty hill, and more importantly, that it is actually a 12K route, but I have plenty of time to panic about those pesky little details later.


Richard decided he was going to embark on another Story-A-Week challenge, starting in July, I decided I needed to set myself a weekly goal as well. Spurred by the fact that my yarn stash is still a bit on the large side, I decided I would try to do finish one sock per week (or if not a sock, roughly the equivalent in stitches / yarn knit).

The first sock done was the second in a pair for Richard – these rainbow colored Gentleman’s Fancy Socks. The pattern comes from the book Vintage Socks, with my own modifications; I did not do as many calf decreases as called for in the pattern, and I used my regular slip stitch heel instead of the stockinette heel called for in the pattern.

Yarn is some form of Trekking XXL that’s been in the stash for a very long time.




For week 2, I decided to cast on a pair for myself. Since we spent that weekend attending a local Science Fiction/Fantasy convention (Westercon), I knew I’d have a lot of available knitting time while sitting in panels, or relaxing in the lounge in between sessions. So I cast on for a pair that would be complex enough to keep them interesting, but not so complicated that I couldn’t knit them while still participating in discussions.

Turns out that I had more time to knit than I thought, plus even with all the twisting of stitches, these knit up a lot faster than I was expecting, so instead of finishing just one sock, I actually finished the pair. Bonus – this puts me one sock ahead, which I am sure will come in handy later in the year when I am super busy with work and life and do not have as much time to knit.

Pattern is Inlay. Yarn was from the stash (Opal, I think).


After that I realized I had a lace knitting guild meeting coming up and I really needed a new lace pattern to cast on, so I decided that lace (or in fact any) projects that use up sock yarn work for this challenge.

I cast on shortly before heading off to the guild meeting, and had so much fun with it I kept on working on it pretty much every night and then suddenly it was done. Bonus – it used nearly 3 balls of sock yarn from the stash.



Having no more sock yarn on the needles, I promptly cast on for yet another. Alas, I only finished one of the two before month’s end – Gentleman’s Half Hose in Ringwood Pattern (also from Vintage Socks) in a vintage yarn (dark blue) from the stash (if by ‘vintage’, I mean ‘discontinued’, but why quibble over the details).

Grand total for the month – four socks knit, plus a bonus 3 balls of sock yarn removed from the stash for the shawl. Game on.


I didn’t intend to get up at 5 this morning. But the mechanical whine of the tow truck in the street woke me up, and once I was awake, my hands also woke up, and proceeded to remind me why it is usually considered a very bad idea to try to knit an extremely large project (the details of which I am contractually not allowed to share) out of certain types of yarn in a very short period of time. So instead of trying to fall back asleep, instead I got up and took some ibuprofin to make the hands stop screaming at me, and then I decided as long as I was awake anyway, I might as well finish the thing, so I sat down with some coffee (necessary) and some cats (not necessary, but you try telling them that) and two hours later, the last end was woven in, and I was done. Of course, my original plan had been to finish it this weekend anyway, so as to get it shipped off to where it needs to go and out of my hair with plenty of time to spare. I just hadn’t counted on all the extra work I’ve put into it over the past 36 hours.

Any other weekend I might have been able to just climb back into bed, but not today. I had just enough time to go take a shower and get dressed and scrounge up my usual black performance attire and stuff it into a bag (having learned that attempting to put on black concert attire in a house with six cats is an exercise in futility, massive fuzz, and usually a small amount of swearing), and then dash off to Dixon for the first cantata performance of the day. I zipped in and changed (I am very good and changing quickly when it comes to concert attire) and had time to spare, to chat and catch up with people I only see once a year or less now.

The cantata went well – the director always picks awesome cantata scores, so it’s always a lot of fun to sing – and then I said my goodbyes and changed back into my street clothes and headed back home.

I had grand plans that today I was going to try to get all the baking done that I need to have done for this coming week, but when I got home I realized that we didn’t have everything that I needed. I thought, for a very brief moment, of trying to get to the grocery store and pick up everything and then come home and see if I could somehow mix up the dough, roll out and bake roughly 5 dozen cookies. But it was only a brief thought. So instead of stressing myself out with baking (like I’ve been stressing myself out with knitting the past few days), we decided to go out and get lunch. We went to a new-to-us place downtown and ate brunch food with a lot of bacon, and then we came back home, and while Richard very nicely went off to the grocery store, list in hand, I stayed home and I and a few of the cats took a much-needed nap.

Then it was back to Dixon for the evening performance of the cantata. And my favorite part of that was that the handbell choir performed as well. I love handbell choirs, and they were absolutely terrific. Between the five of them, they were juggling something like 30 bells, and it was obvious they were all having a whole lot of fun.

So now I am back home. The cantata is done. The test knit is done. We curled up on the couches in the living room and watched the latest installment of “The Next Iron Chef” and I did not knit a single stitch. It was wonderful.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.