Monday, January 23, 2006

L'art pour l'art or Lunatiques pour les chats lunatiques

It's true, we've become a cat-obsessed family. We are in love with our cats, and sometimes they deign to show us affection. Usually to get one of the three basic needs met--food/water, clean litter box, and the warm comfortable spot in which you are seated. Anyway, I decided, after Alana knit herself a cap on the round loom to include ten-year old Jack in the activity so he wouldn't feel left out. What was I thinking? First we/he wrapped the yarn too tightly around the pegs and it WOULD NOT budge. He quickly decided this was a lame project and returned to the NASCAR PS2 game he was playing. Next I thought, well, we could try crocheting. We agreed on a simple pattern (crochet skills very rusty after a thirteen-year hiatus), and I went to the store to get the yarn. They didn't have the color he wanted, so I went to Yarn Mecca (aka Michael's) and found the perfect yarn. It looks just like our pets. Needless to say, I bought it and headed home with big plans to crochet or knit an afghan with Jack. I got home and tried out the pattern before sitting down with Jack (still playing NASCAR). I realized two things. Chenille is hard to crochet with, and I don't really remember what all the instructions mean. So I ripped out the forty-two attempts at a crocheted afghan and went with plan B. Knitting. Any moron can knit, right? Maybe, but can any moron teach someone to knit? Not so much. We sat down and tried, and I'm sure you've already guessed, it was a complete failure. I realized I'd have better luck trying to scale the outside of the Sear's Tower without equipment at night than to teach my very active LEFT HANDED ten-year old boy to knit or crochet. So I did what any logical person would do. I googled. Surely I could figure out how to teach a lefty to knit. I found the instructions, printed them out, and once again tried the experiment first myself. I used to buy funny "quipish" things for my left-handed friend and roommate, Laura, like "Hire the Left-Handed; they're fun to watch." Now it's karma time. Try watching a confirmed right-hander (please God, don't ever let my right side be paralyzed and I have to use my left) trying to knit left-handed. More fun than earth people. It was a bust. I felt like I was standing in front of a fun-house mirror trying to write backwards. Plan C. I'll knit a combo quilt using the colors of our pets. Silver and black for Jasper, light brown and black for Gino (our honorary Yorkie-cat), dark brown and black for Jinx, and plain old black for Mr. Kitty. Maybe someday we'll find someone who can teach a lefty to knit. Or I'll wait until the stroke hits and figure it out then.

It's a belt, no it's a scarf, no it's

Super fiber!!! Using up the leftover hunk of thick/thin yarn. Made a skinny scarfish-belt. ABC modeled it here. In fact she's wearing it to school today to keep her pants on over her non-existent hips. Picture removed--new one coming soon. Thanks for the suggestion, JT. Right as usual.

Singed a bit, were you?

I looked at Jasper the other day, and his face looked lopsided. For a kitty with a giant head, that's a pretty scary thought. Then I realized I had seen that look before. Scott used to like to build bonfires in the back yard at the group home in Michigan, and there's no better accelerant than gasoline to start a fire. But one needs to be prepared to jump back quickly or eyebrows and bangs tend to get singed off. Back to Jasper. His whiskers on one side: long, white, straight, luxurious, the envy of any self-respecting Bengal. The other side, however, were uneven, and somewhat curly. How did he set his face on fire? I didn't remember any screams of pain. Then an image from the night before presented itself before my eyes--Jasper hunkered down beside the votive I had lit and stuck on the entertainment center to ward off the evil cat poop scent. I guess he ventured a little too close to the flame, and if curiosity didn't kill the cat, at least it gave him a good singe.

The piece de resistance

My aunt has lung cancer and has started chemo and radiation. The report is that her hair is coming out in chunks, so I thought I'd knit her a hat. There are tons of cute patterns for hats on the internet. My especial favorite is the headhuggers.com hat "The No Hair Day Hairy Chemo Cap." It uses eyelash yarn and looks like poinky hair. Very fun: http://www.headhuggers.org/patterns/kpatt10.htm. I didn't have the right yarn to do that, and I wanted to make something soft and colorful. Despite warnings never to buy yarn on eBay (from the local knit shop ladies--no irony there). No really, if you get something from somebody's basement it could be musty and yucky: an asthmatic's delight. But I found recycled sari yarn and fell in love. I ordered ten skeins and they arrived posthaste. The seller suggested using mohair yarn to make the end product extra soft. I ordered red and pink mohair, thinking that they would match they multicolored hues of the sari yarn. But my mom is right, Laynie is not a pastel-y, pinky kinda lady. She's more a jeans and sweatshirt girl. Mom says Tiny Gramp (their grandfather) used to call Layne "Hiram" because she was his farm hand. So I fished in my drawer and found my soft black yarn and put the two together. I followed the no-hair day pattern on circular needles but (as is usually the case) didn't check the gauge. The hat turned out big enough for Layne and a friend or two to wear, so I ripped it out (I'm getting good at that), and redid it on the Knifty Knitter red loom. It turned out nice and snug, and I whipped up a loosey-goosey scarf on the big fat #50 needles with the yarn I had left. Both soft and toasty and beautiful, I think. I hand washed them (silk sari yarn is a little fabric-y stinky) with the delicate wash I bought at the lingerie store--smells right nice now. They are drying on the table now, and I hope to pack them off tomorrow. I hope they fit. I suppose it's the thought that counts, but fittin' and likin' are nice too. And with a little more practice, I hope to have decent pictures of my artsy creations as well.

I'm picking out a Thermos for you . . .

a very special Thermos for you. Well, okay, a scarf. My mother-in-law, bless her heart, thinks I knit very well, so I decided to make her a scarf. She loves those magic scarves and bought herself one. I''ve been trying to find just the right color and style, so I made this one, at ABC's suggestion. Somehow it may not be the right one for her. Maybe I'll take a pile of finished scarves over and let her pick one out. Seems the route to go. It is a cute scarf, though. Maybe we'll keep it at home. I know you can't have too many handbags, too many pairs of black shoes, too many earrings or too many articles of black clothing in your closet, but is it possible to have too many scarves? The scarf drawer is already full.

Loving the Bling Bling

Found some fun Bling Bling yarn by Bernat which, of course, had a sagey green in it (Spotlight sage). I wanted to knit a scarf with it, but wanted to bulk it up with a little chenille. The only color I could find was a too fuschia pink, but I did it anyway. It turned out nice but isn't really my color. Guess it goes in the gift pile. Again just straight stockinette stitch. Any more complicated than that, and I get interrupted or distracted, and it's a mess. I tried about ten times to start a scarf with Beautiful yarn and Cello (eyelash) yarn which required purling, yarn over (YO) and knitting together. I keep ripping it out. Now I'm trying to use the Cello yarn to make a magic scarf. Since I didn't have the right size circular needle (13 US, 29"), I am making my first attempt at using DPN (11, 7"). It will probably be twisted and frightening, but at least I'm learning what not to do. One of these days I'll venture into something more complex--before the nice young men in their clean white coats come, because then I won't be allowed any pointed objects.

I'm just laughing--

at how wrinkled the blanket I used as background for my knitting pictures is. The floor was too gross to use as a background, and the couch is too dark, so I guess I chose the least of three evils. Here are some offerings from my mom, who calls herself and intermediate knitter, but does lovely work. She compares herself too much to other people who are unnaturally gifted and should be shunned or idolized. The blue scarf has lovely greeny bits in it, and my mom said she made something flashy to look good with my red hair. Nice soft scarf. Notice the cat helping take pictures. That's Jasper (Doodle as ABC calls him). As I read the Knitter blogs, almost everyone has a cat. I guess I'm fitting the prototype. Three cats and a Yorkie smaller than any of them. The pink scarf if from Nanny to Alana and has a matching purse. Again, not sure where any of ABC's stuff is. She is truly a chip off the messy block.

Inveterate Bargain Shopper Hits a Homerun!

I can't help myself: I have to buy things on sale. I feel like I'm doing something wrong if I don't. My dad would be proud, since most of his sentences are concluded with, "It cost 43 cents at Canadian Tire." Chip off the ol' block--in a good way. I hit the bargain bin at Joann and found "defective" yarn for $2.50 a skein. There were two skeins, and they were matching and fun in a nubbly sort of way, so I brought them home. I went for the straight stockinette stitch and made a scarf. The defective tag meant several pieces of the yarn were broken off, so I had to knot them back together. In a bulky yarn such as this, it's hardly noticeable. Thought about giving it away, but I think it's my favorite creation so far. Very nice to wear at the ice rink while Alana skates. Now I just need to knit a very large scarf to keep my bum warm.

And now for something a little different

I went to my favorite local knitting store Knitche (they sell Intelli coffee, yay). The owner had designed a felted handbag that was published in a book of cool knitting projects "Hip Handbags" by Valerie Van Arsdale Schrader (Lark Books, 2005). I loved the design, but was a little put off by the sample project. It was pink and brown--the colors of the chocolate shop in downtown Naperville which makes me feel a little sick every time I enter there. (BTW, the Knitche kits are available by calling 630 (852-KNIT.) Perhaps the colors grew on me, though (like mold), and I chose to buy the sample color and not the monochromatic black kit. Talk about stepping outside the comfort zone! I figured it would be easier to see the mistakes with a CC (contrasting color). Bought the circular needles, etc and whipped the project up without too much difficulty. There's a mistake at the beginning as I reacquainted myself with what it means to use circular needles. Yes, Virginia, you are actually supposed to CONNECT the circle. All's well that ends well. I felted it; it turned out cute, and my only step left is to find a tapestry needle that is the right size to sew on my button. It seems the finishing step of projects is a recurring theme I need to work on. Not surprising. I used the leftover yarn to create my own bag which I have not yet felted nor found a button for. Something old fashionedy would look good, methinks.

Then I found the Knifty Knitter

Maybe I resisted buying it, because I hate it when people spell with the letter K when they aren't supposed to. It's just wrong. Anyway, saw a set of 4 different sized looms, but I didn't buy it because I didn't have $9. Then I went back to Michael's/Joann, and none were to be had for love nor money. I broke down and bought a single loom (the blue medium-sized one) and figured I'd complete my collection later. First attempt was the blue chenille hat. Alana made a purple chenille, but I can't find it. Then I combined yarn--soft mohairy black with the thick/thin burgundy yarn. I love how the pattern of the thick/thin showed up as a spiral. I found the complete kit at Hancock Fabric for $24. I bought it with the plan to return it if I found it cheaper. I then headed to Michael's in Downers Grove and found the kit (stacks of them) for $9. Needless to say, I returned the other one. That Michael's is the mecca for yarn lovers. I found some fabulous patterns and yarn and have packed my little knitting supplies drawer full of lovely things to use later. The Knifty (argh) Knitter has patterns for hats only, so I looked online and found some free patterns for using the loom at provocraft.com and www.macphersoncrafts.com/FreeProjects/ FreeProject_KniftyKnitter. I'd like to make a scarf, but it seems like most people use the long rectangular loom for that. Maybe some other day.

I started slowly . . .

First, I pulled out a learn-to-knit kit I bought for my daughter in a failed attempt to teach her to knit. I realized after looking at the yarn that maybe the failure wasn't all my fault. Who could learn to knit on pink eyelash yarn which completely hides the stitches? I ask you. So I knit that scarf up with size 13 needles and trundled it off to my mom for Xmas. She says she likes it. She's probably just being nice. Then I made a scarf for my friend's mother with two skeins of Red Beautiful Yarn (by Joann Fabric). Again on size 13s. It was incredibly soft and fluffy, but I didn't like the way it curled. Too wide too. No pictures of those. Next project was my first attempt at combining yarn. All I had was the leftover pink eyelash and purple chenille yarn. Hideous color combo, but feels nice. Just straight knitting. I'll have to start keeping track of each project--how many stitches cast on, how long finished project is, size of needles, stitches used, etc. Here's the pink/purple monstrosity:

The Scarf that Started it All

Here's the scarf my cousin Janet knit that inspired me to start knitting again after a twenty-year hiatus.