Tuesday, July 30, 2013


My family and I have just returned from a lovely road trip to Ontario.  While there, we stayed at the  Blue Mountain Inn and played on the beach at Nottawasaga Bay, then we headed down to Toronto and saw the sites of the city.  I managed to squeeze in a few fiber-related trips, which I'll post about soon.  Right now, I'm working through weeding through the 900 pictures my husband and I took on the trip - those camera phones are both a curse and a blessing!  Give me a few days to get organized, then I'll be ready to entertain you with some posts about our trip!

Until then, I'll give you this pic of my new summer wrap - due to be published in about 2 weeks.  If you're interested, it takes about 675 yards of fingering-weight yarn.  My testers' projects are coming out beautifully, so I'm looking forward to publishing this pattern soon!

Friday, July 26, 2013

I Am Not THIS Crazy of a Cat Lady

My family occasionally likes to call me the "Crazy Cat Lady".  They mean it in the nicest way possible...I just happen to be someone who puts up with a lot of craziness from my pets that apparently most people wouldn't put up with.  

We've had our current pair of cats for about 5 years now.  Sidenote: I don't like having single cats.  I think they would be lonely without each other, even though our boy cat mostly just menaces his sister, and she backs away growling with her ears flattened whenever he's around.  So clearly I base my opinion here on something other than reality.

Anyway, these two cats kind of fell into our lives unexpectedly.  I was not looking for pets.  I went to our church one day to reserve the chapel for my yearly student piano recital, and when I walked it, the church secretary had two little balls of fur in her lap.  These two kittens were not yet a week old.  Their eyes were still closed and each one easily fit into the palm of your hand.  I squealed and asked if I could hold them.  

As it turned out, some of the church preschool children had heard these two kittens crying in the bushes in front of the church that morning.  The mama cat was a stray and (we would later learn), some well-intentioned people had taken her home with them a couple days before, not knowing that she had two babies that needed her in the bushes.  It was actually quite amazing that they survived at all - a couple days without any nourishment, in early spring weather.  The vet told me not to get too attached, because she knew that kittens taken away from their mothers this early didn't always thrive.

Whoops, I skipped ahead.  Anyway, at the time, my kids were 4 and 7.  I wasn't looking to take on a labor-intensive pet situation, but the church secretary was allergic to cats and she didn't know who was going to take these two kittens.  Our last pair of cats, which had been with me since I was 10 years old, had been gone a couple years by this time.  I always enjoy having cats around, and I wanted my kids to have the experience of having pets as well.  I felt like I was in a position of being able to nurse these kittens, even though it meant middle of the night bottle feedings of kitten formula (and convincing my husband to help me out with said feedings) for at least a month.  It meant keeping a heated bag of rice in their box so they stayed warm (their food won't digest properly if they get cold), and it meant using a washcloth to clean their little bottoms the way their mama would because that's the mechanism that gets them to go to the bathroom.   It meant teaching the kittens to use a litter box and teaching them to recognize cat food as something that goes in their mouth (that was much more difficult than I expected!)    I didn't understand the full scope at the time, which is probably good because it seems overwhelming now that I write it all out like that!

But my husband agreed and we took the kittens home, had that vet appointment where she told us not to get our hopes up and I inwardly rolled my eyes at her because I knew that any kittens that can survive alone in the bushes when they are just a few days old are tough little critters.

And I guess that's why I put up with a lot from these two.  They didn't have a cat mama to teach them the ropes, and I did the best I could.  So I forgave them when they pooped in the bathtub whenever we were out of the house "too long" (thank goodness that only lasted for about 6 months!)  I thought it was cute when they were so eager for my attention that they literally climbed up my pant leg to my waist.  (Cute when they were tiny, but we had to break that habit real fast when they got bigger!)  I still forgive my male cat when he stalks me in the morning, leaning in close to my face and poking my forehead with his paw before darting off the bed (because he has learned what my sleepy reaction to him doing this is!)

And so when my family sees silly cat-related stuff, they think of me.  My sister once bought me a Crazy Cat Lady action figure set.  It's still in pristine condition....not sure what I'm saving it for, but I'm convinced that it will come in handy some day!

And recently, when my husband came across a picture of this mer-cat on the web, he announced "This should be your next knitting project!"

I know there are people out there who consider knitting a mermaid's tail and putting in on your cat some sort of animal torture, but I think that if I was so inclined, I could make the case that it's just payback for the months of poop in the bathtub and years of being poked in the forehead while dead asleep.  And I still think the cat would have the better end of the deal!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Vacation Knitting, Part Deux

Something else wonderful that happened on my birthday was receiving a gift certificate from my sister and her family for a yarn shop near me.  I was totally going to be good and use "souvenir yarn" from my trip to make my second travel project, but since I already had this gift certificate, and since the LYS had sent out a newletter telling everyone about their recent shipment from Madelinetosh.....well, buying new yarn just seemed like the right thing to do!

The "Esoteric" colorway of the tosh sock yarn caught my eye right away. I was tempted by some of their purple color ways, but I kept coming back to this muted blue-green color mixed in with a generous amount of gray.  This photo doesn't even almost do it justice.  Hopefully finished photos taken outdoors will give you a better idea of it's beauty.

I picked the Indicum Pullover by Hillary Smith Callis.  She has a few designs that I love, but this project marries my love of simple lines with my love of sock yarn.  I also loved the detail of corrugated ribbing at the hem, sleeve cuffs, and neckline.  I thought about going with gray as the accent color (since it plays perfectly off the gray already in the main color yarn), but I decided to go with something "brighter" & "summer-y-er".  This pink yarn from Kollage is exactly as muted as the blue-green yarn, and they really go together well.  As I knit up the neckline I questioned my choice to go with the brighter color for the accent, but I think that's only because I'm much more comfortable with tonal variation than I am with contrasting colors.  I think that once I get more of the main color knit up and the pink becomes more of an accent and less of a main feature, I'll be happy with my choice.

We have about 12 hours in the car each way, plus a 3-hour round-trip to Niagara Falls, so I think there's a good chance I'll come home with either one or both of these projects finished!

Friday, July 19, 2013


Lately, I've been trying to get things squared away for vacation.  I was very happy to find out that my kids don't need passports since we're driving across the border.  Apparently Americans can bring their under-16-year-old children into Canada with them using just an official copy of their birth certificate.

Other preparations have not gone so smoothly.  To avoid foreign transaction fees on every vacation purchase we make, we decided to just convert some cash and use that while we're gone.  Trouble is, our "bank" is actually a credit union, and they don't convert currency.  So we had to pay extra to have it done by a bank through a system that takes a week to process your order.  I'm glad we didn't wait for the last minute on that one!

It occurred to my husband that our phone plans might not work out of our own country, and when he called the phone company to ask, his concern was confirmed.  We can add 1000 Canadian minutes for just $25, which seems reasonable, but if we want data (you know, to use the driving directions or to look up locations and hours of the places we want to go), they charge $25 for every 100MB (which is not a lot of data).  Luckily, we still have our Garmin GPS from our pre-smart-phone days, so we'll be carrying that around with us to use for directions, and we'll just be as stingy as possible with our other data use.  First world problems, right?

One thing that I'm very happy to report is going well is the vacation knitting projects I've cast on!  These projects will also help me fulfill my goal of "knit a couple things by other designers" that I laid out at the beginning of the summer.  I chose this first project because it has an elegant construction that I can see myself using in a future design project.  It also has a chart that is laid out in a fairly unique way (not that I'm an expert on shawl charts, but I thought the writer did a good job of making something that could have looked complicated, look pretty simple.)

The project is the Crooked Cathedral Shawl written by Marisa Hernandez.  One look at her designer page will tell you that she is all about the shawls.

I am working this shawl in a skein of Cherry Tree Hill Supersock Select yarn from my stash.  The colorway is called "Cornflower", and it reminds me of the sky on a perfect summer's day - bright sky blue mixed with white bits to represent puffy summer clouds.

I cast on while watching my daughter's softball practice the other day.  I like to get a little bit into a project before I take it with me somewhere.  That way I've already done the work of reading the pattern and decoding anything that I don't understand.  The lace chart took me a few minutes to really understand how to read it, but the info is all there.  I was just being impatient and wanting to start before I read it all!  (Bad knitter!)  Anyway, what you see here represents about 2 hours of work.

My husband is taking is as some sort of personal test of strength and manliness to do all the driving himself.  We have two long driving days (8-10 hours), one on the way there, one on the way back, but our second day of driving will be a "wake up, drive 2-4 hours, and we're there!" sort of situation.  So I guess I'd better make sure we're stocked up on caffeine and my needle tips are pointy in case I need to keep him awake.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Happy Birthday to Me!

I love birthdays.  I am happy to tell anyone who wants to know that I turned 38 this month.  Growing older is a privilege, one that is denied to many, and I embrace whatever age I am and look forward to the years to come.  Don't get me wrong....I have noticed in the past few years that I don't get the same sort of attention out in the world as I did when I was younger, but that's not the sort of attention I value.  What I do value is having a marriage that is a mutual admiration society and not a power struggle.  I value having enough parenting skills to handle whatever my kids throw at us, and having the wisdom to seek advice from others when I am feeling stuck.  I value cultivating relationships with interesting women (and men, but I just run into a lot more women in my day-to-day life, so they are the ones I generally get to connect with.)  And all of those things just get richer with every birthday I get to celebrate.

My husband and kids spoiled me on this birthday, as they usually do.  My favorite gift from them has to be the ring they ordered from Leslie Wind.  It's a ring/cable needle....slip it off, hold your stitches on it while you're working a cable, then put it back on your hand until you need it again.  Brilliant!  I just wouldn't recommend sleeping with it on, and I've found out the hard way that I need to take it off before undressing at night - I've already ripped a shirt on it.  Even though my family only ordered the ring for me, Leslie enclosed this lovely shawl pin (/bookmark) in the package as well.  She doesn't know how perfect her timing was...when I do my photo shoot for my Lace Wrap, I'll be thrilled to use this pin in some of the photos!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Getting Warmer...

Remember that thing about me not working this summer?  Well, I'm really not.  

But as much as I'm "not working", I don't seem to be able to "not knit".  I'm actually not sure why anyone would want to not knit.  After all, I still wait for my daughter after gymnastics, I still sit through many, many softball games, and I still have shows I enjoy "watching" (ok, it's actually listening) on tv.  So not knitting is not really an option.   

As long as I was knitting anyway, I thought I'd finish up this wrap I've been working on.  It's been about 90% finished for almost a month now, but the last trim part has taken me a while and a good bit of experimenting to get just right, but I'm happy to say that I'm now quite proud of the way the corners have come out on this wrap.  

Now that I've got the formula figured out, I need to finish my charts and re-knit the edges one more time.  After that, I'll be ready for some testers who love following lace charts!

Since I'm "not working", I have no idea if I'll be able to start testing before we leave for vacation in a couple weeks but I'll give it the old college try.

And my husband doesn't know this yet, but I have big plans to take my wrap to Toronto with us for some photographs on the beach.  Looks like I'll be "not working" on vacation, too.


PS: In case this design in on your radar and you want to be prepared with yarn when it comes out, you'll need about 675 yes of light fingering-weight yarn.

Sunday, July 7, 2013


I've always resisted keeping track of my yarn by posting photos to Ravelry.  This is mostly because I'm really not a particularly 'techie'-type of person.  I don't really enjoy computers....I love some of the things they can do for me, and I love that they make the world a lot smaller, but I don't enjoy the process of using them.  I also haven't had an actual stash for very long.  Up until a few years ago, I just bought the yarn I needed for a particular project.  About 3 years ago though, once I started designing, I started to see the value of having a stash on hand.  I also started getting more curious about different fibers and different brands of yarn, so when I traveled, I sought out yarns that I might not be able to find close to home.

These behaviors have led to me acquiring quite a little stockpile of yarn.  I have made a kind of deal with myself - the stash can't exceed my ability to store it.  Right now, the "storage" consists of a large basket in the family room, and another smaller basket that fits under an end table.  Those two places are where the "good yarn" lives.  "Good yarn", of course, is yarn that is either fun to look at, something I think I'll use relatively soon, or a brand/line that I know I love.

I also have a very large box of "boring yarn" under my bed.  That holds all the plain worsted wool I use for felted projects, and a few other yarns that I don't really see myself using any time soon.  At least half of it is stuff that I have no idea why I keep around.  Next time I have a de-stash opportunity, I'll have to get rid of some of it.

I also have 2 tupperware boxes of scraps.  Some of these "scraps" are almost half a skein, so they could definitely make something fun in a striped or color work project.

It took me about 3 hours to photograph and catalog the 50 yarns that I wanted in my on-line stash (the "reject yarns" from the under the bed box didn't make it to the on-line stash), but this will be helpful going forward.  I'll be able to easily pull up what I already own in a certain weight or in a certain quantity.  I'll even be able to access it on my phone next time I'm at a yarn shop and I wonder if I should buy that single skein of sock yarn (Correct Answer: No, I already have too many single skeins.  But chances are good that I'll buy it anyway.)  Or if I'm trying to buy a yarn that coordinates with something I already own, I'll be able to look at the pics on my phone while I'm at a yarn shop.

This weekend I've been thinking very hard about what project(s) I want to bring with me on vacation.  We're driving from Central Illinois to Toronto, with trips up to the Blue Mountain area a couple hours north of the city, and Niagara Falls a couple hours south.  So we will have a LOT of time in the car.  I have a scarf going on right now, and it's great mindless knitting, but it's not going to last me 20+ hours. I have an idea for a sweater that I'm dying to get to, but I need very specific yarn for it (soft enough for direct contact with skin, fingering or sport weight, in 3 or 4 coordinating shades of the same color.)  And I am now absolutely sure that I don't have anything appropriate in the house.  Maybe the yarn for this sweater will be what I spend my vacation souvenir money on.  My husband suggested I get started on the men's sweater I designed and promised to make the sample to fit him, but I haven't sent the proposal in for that, and therefore don't have the yarn for it on hand, either.

I do have a small project I've been kicking around in my head.  It's probably going to be the pattern I release with a free code for blog readers / TnT Group members for Christmas 2013.  I'll probably make 3 samples of this pattern, but it's a small project, and wouldn't keep me busy for the whole trip, either.  So I'm still searching.....better hurry up!  Vacation will be here before I know it!

If you love snooping through other people's stash, you're welcome to take a look at mine here.  Can you tell I like to buy blue and pink yarn?