Still Life, With Cats

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Over and over

At about 7 this morning, a herd of elephants went rampaging through the house over my head, thundering around and crashing into things. This may make no sense until I explain that we live in a roughly 100-year-old high-water bungalow style house that, at some point in the past was raised even higher, so the main living space is on the second floor (as is the front door), and the bedrooms are on the lower level. We also have no carpeting anywhere in the house (a combination of six cats + allergies + we much prefer the look of wood even without the first two issues), so activity on the upper level can often be heard down below.  Completely unrelated (of course – ha), it is always astounding to me how much noise an animal who weighs less than 15 pounds can make when they put their minds to it.

Richard can sleep through anything. Alas, I lost that ability shortly after I left college. So I decided to take advantage of the fact that I was now wide awake, and went upstairs to try to make some significant headway on a particular knitting project.

However, today was apparently one of those days where I was incapable of either counting, or reading a chart correctly. I finished up a sizable piece of knitting this morning, and then I went off to the monthly lace knitting group meeting, where I hit the wall in terms of chart reading (let’s just say I would be *done* with this lace piece by now if I hadn’t had to keep ripping back and redoing the same damn three rows, and the fact that I finished the meeting further ahead than when I started is only due to my ability to knit extremely fast). And then when I got back home I picked up my yarn and needles for the project I was working on this morning and discovered that actually I had done it all wrong, and needed to rip it all out and start again. Grumble.

But the day was not entirely lost. It is not as if I have to have either of these projects done tomorrow. I got to sit on the couch under an afghan and a cat for several hours today, doing something I love, and then go hang out with a bunch of awesome people and do more of it (minus the afghan and the cat, but with bonus added chai). And then this evening we went out to dinner to a new-to-us ramen place downtown with some friends, and we sat there and slurped noodles and talked about life, the universe, and everything including cats (okay, a lot of it was about cats, but that is how we roll), and we finished the evening with house-made mochi and black sesame ice cream and an agreement that we definitely have to go back there again. Soon.

And then Richard and I came home and watched The Next Iron Chef, where the drama of this week, where one of our least favorite chefs was booted off, almost (but not quite) made up for the drama of last week where our very favorite chef was eliminated (sob), and I plugged away on the thing I screwed up on this morning, and this time it all worked just fine and there was no more ripping out to do.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

Warm hands

Last year, one of my fellow knitters and I both bought yarn, specifically to make stranded colorwork mittens. Except that then we never actually got around to *making* those mittens. So this year, we decided that January would be the month of mittens. Anyone who wanted to join in could do so, using whatever pattern they wanted, just as long as it was mittens.

I suspect I may be the only one who’s actually *doing* this so far, but that’s okay. I’ve been having fun. A lot of fun. Apparently I had forgotten just how much I enjoy doing stranded color work. No, I really am not kidding. There’s something kind of magical about it. It always takes me a little bit to get back into the swing of carrying two strands at once, and some parts of colorwork (corrugated ribbing, for example) can be really fiddly. But eventually I slide right back into that rhythm and I’m off.

I made some fingerless gloves years ago, but who knows where they ended up. The temperature at my office tends to fluctuate wildly, depending on the weather, and whether or not the wall gauges actually feel like working that day. The front half of the office gets lots of direct sun, but the back half, where I am, is like a little frozen cave, and there have been days when I sit at my computer with my coat on, huddled next to the space heater that technically I’m not supposed to be using (shh), trying to type and use the mouse with icicles for fingers.

So my first goal this month was to whip up some new fingerless gloves. Luckily I found the yarn I bought last year (KnitPick Chrome), so I was all set. Normally I wouldn’t be willing to make something utilitarian out of a yarn that has to be handwashed, but since these were for me, I can be pretty sure that the person using them will refrain from tossing them accidentally into the washer.

The pattern is Wintergreen Gloves. The yarn has long color changes; hence the shift in hue from dark orange to light. I made some minor modifications by lengthening the hands just a bit, since as I mentioned previously, I get icicle fingers.

I finished these in just about a week, and I’ve been wearing them in the car (it’s been really cold out lately) and at the office ever since.

Once I finished these, Richard starting making sad noises about his own chilly hands, so next up were these.

The pattern (Men’s Fair Isle Mittens) was for full mittens, and has a solid color cuff, but Richard only wanted fingerless gloves, and I didn’t feel like slogging through three inches of solid color ribbing. So I switched things up a bit and did some corrugated ribbing, topped with a Latvian plait, for the cuff, and then tacked on a tiny bit of solid-color ribbing at the top for hand and thumb. I whipped these up in only a few days (see above re. getting back into the rhythm of colorwork).

The third pair (so far) this month I actually started about a week ago, and finished the first one before getting side-tracked by the mitts for Richard. When I saw the pattern, I knew I needed to make myself a pair.

The pattern is Recess for Grownups, because puppet mittens aren’t just for kids, after all. It took me just a hair over two balls of sock yarn to make these and the mitts for Richard.

Here’s the palm side.

There are only seven days left in the month, and next month we’re jumping into helical socks and leaving mittens behind. So I am pondering whether or not I want to try for one more pair, or if maybe the mitten obsession is done for a while. Although I am so very tempted by these. And these. And…well, you get the idea.

Sticks and string and everything in between

I am a knitter. And I have been one for nearly nine years. Wow. Sometimes it feels like it’s only been a few years since I started. It took me a little digging, but I eventually figured out that I’ve been knitting since January of 2003, when I asked a knitting friend if she would show me how. My mom says she showed all of us, back when we were very small, but I honestly don’t remember it. I have this very vague recollection of sitting with one of the grandmothers, doing something with yarn, but I’ve no idea if it was knitting or crochet.

It took me a little bit to get the hang of how to hold the needles, and I freely admit that I am a lazy knitter – I prop one needle against myself when I knit. I never figured out quite how to hold both needles away from me, without losing hold of one of them, and even though I know it’d be a really handy skill to eventually learn, I quickly lose patience every time I try. I’m a fairly quick knitter, and propping works well for me. I may never be able to knit while walking, or standing, but I’m okay with that.

I love this craft. I really, really do. There’s something amazingly rewarding about turning skeins of yarn into something beautiful, or even just something practical. I love doing cables – the more intricate the better. I love knitting lace, even though I am most decidedly *not* a lace wearer. And I am just as happy noodling along on a pair of plain stockinette socks as I am hunched over a complicated lace pattern that requires absolute silence, all my concentration, and usually a fair bit of swearing under my breath.

It has definitely had its rewards. I have taken second place twice for my lace – once at the California State Fair; once at the Sacramento county fair. I have knit a LOT of socks, so it is rare that I wear anything but handknit socks these days, and there is a pile of knit afghans (done in machine-washable acrylic because hello, I live with five little shedding, hairball-hacking cats). I do test knitting on a regular basis for two toy designers, and have made a number of shop samples for various local yarn stores, ranging from hats to lace. And four years ago I decided I wanted to try my hand at doing my own designs, just for fun. I set myself a goal – one published pattern a year (I could do more if I wanted, but the whole point of setting such a low goal was to keep it stress free; I’m doing this for fun, not to make a living). And every single year I have met that goal.

This year I managed to squeak it in under the wire, but here’s my published pattern for 2011 – the Embossed Scarf.

I’m pretty happy with this one – I have a LOT of sock yarn in my stash, so finding ways to turn it into something other than socks has become somewhat of a priority lately, and this pattern was the result.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

Click, click

Pattern: Gentlemen’s Sock – from Knitting Vintage Socks. Made for Richard. This is sock pair #2 completed for the year (yes, I am aware that I am 3 pairs behind schedule).

The results of a massive book purge: 8 grocery sacks, and 3 boxes, stuffed with books. This filled the back of the Prius completely, yet is only a small fraction of what we still own. We dropped them off at the Friends of the Library used book store this morning, and returned with only 6 ‘new’ ones (one of which is being sent off to someone else).

Stacking herb garden. There are three basils on the bottom. Naturally those are the ones the snails are decimating. Stupid snails (I hope you like Sluggo).

Tiny baby cucumbers. There’s about half a dozen on the plant so far.

Baby tomatoes. We put in twice as many tomatoes this year. I am hoping that I do not regret this.

Clickety click

So, I was right – the 100,000 mile check-up did include another ‘ouch’ for my car. Turns out a cracked drive belt can be expensive. Ugh. But I am consoling myself that, all things considered, the ‘major’ repairs on this car have been few and far between, so it isn’t as bad as it could have been. We’ll see if I can keep it going for another 100,000 miles (although I suspect it’ll take even longer than the first 100,000, since we do a lot less driving than we did when we first got it).

Aside from the wince-inducing auto maintenance, though, the week’s been a decent one. The box arrived for Kathy’s Take and Replace Swap, and even though I need more lace yarn and/or more sock yarn like I need another overly caffeinated turbo-cat (aka Rupert), I could not help myself, and took out these:

That’s two skeins of Knit Picks Shimmer in an absolutely gorgeous red, and a ball of self-patterning sock yarn. I have a laceweight drawer and a sockweight drawer in the paint-spattered old dresser I use for yarn storage, and they are both so full that it is almost impossible to stuff any more yarn into them, but…in the face of shiny new yarn, I am weak. At least with a Take-and-Replace swap, yarn in = yarn out, so total number of yarn skeins in the house didn’t change.

On the plus side, however, last night I did finish a pair of socks (plain stockinette ones, in purple Trekking XL), thereby fulfilling the Sock-Completion-Goal for January. And earlier this week, I handed a few sock pattern books to Richard and said ‘pick the ones you like’, so (using some of the sock yarn that ‘accidentally’ fell into my shopping basket at a yarn-shop-closing event a few weekends ago – ahem), Thursday night, I cast on for a new pair. I’m not holding my breath I’ll get these done by end of month, because Richard has large feet and I have other things I also need to be knitting in the meantime, but it at least gets me an early start for February.

Oh, and speaking of February, since she posted it to her blog, I can show you the thing I was frantically trying to finish up last weekend.

This is Coo and Coy, and you can get the pattern to make your own little duo here (just in time for Valentine’s Day!).