Monday, November 30, 2009

Catching Up: a four-fer

I have the most wonderful readers in the world.  Many, many thanks to the overwhelming number of people who commented on my last post about Tidget, my missing cat.  Quite a few of you have gone through the same thing, and some of you were lucky enough to have your cat come back, even after an extended period, which was wonderful to read.  I’m sad to have to report that I’ve not seen Tidget, nor have I received any calls from someone who might have found her.  I suppose it’s still possible that she will return – who knows?  On the positive side, my other cat, Muushuu, has had a dramatic change in personality.  I hadn’t realized just how submissive he was to the bossy Miss T.   He has blossomed in the last two weeks into a total love sponge. 

Meanwhile,  the fibery activity has continued, so it’s time to play catch up.  Sorry if it’s a bit of overload, but I seem to have fallen behind, so I’m going to a one swell foop type post and “git ’er done.”

I’ve been knitting.  :-)

Back in June of ’09, I spun a sparkly red yarn from a merino/silk/glitz batt from Enchanted Knoll.  It’s now become a Mirage scarf.


I love the texture in this pattern.

IMG_8441aI’ve already given it to friend who fell in love with the yarn when I first spun it, and she’s already worn it at least twice in my presence.  I know it’s not necessary, and once you give something away you have no stake in it, but I must admit that I do love it when people appreciate and use gifts – especially handcrafts.

A more recent spin, this time a BFL/silk blend from The Thylacine, has become a 198 yds of Heaven shawl.


After blocking, the yarn softened up quite nicely and has a bit of shimmer from the silk.  I followed the same mods described in other Ravelry projects to make the edging line up better with the pattern.

IMG_8742aI’m not normally one for lace patterns in multi-coloured yarns, but I think this stitch pattern is strong enough to hold its own with the subtle striping.  This will be a Christmas present for my new sister-in-law.  I know she wears shawls, but I don’t know she feels about handcrafts.  I guess I’ll find out.

The spinning continues.

  IMG_8481This merino/silk/bamboo blend is the first instalment of a new round of the Mixed Blessings club from Fat Cat Knits.  I love doing these, because it really gives you a chance to play.  I decided to rip the two braids apart and separate out the colours.  One I kept with all the dark purple and blue tones, and the other …

IMG_8539a… I tried to gradate from yellow through orange to blue.  The finished yarn, 366 yards of two-ply at 15 wpi, came out like this:

IMG_8638a   IMG_8654a Since I seem to be in full-blown scarf mode, it’s already been cast and about half knit.  But more about when it’s done. :-)

Just one more:

IMG_7163a This was my first try at spinning Rambouillet.  It’s from Hungry for Handspun in the Purple Dusk colourway.  It’s related to merino, and the fibre has that same spongy feel.  The finished yarn came out quite soft and really poofed up after finishing.

IMG_8367a It’s a three-ply sock weight, 477 yards from 4.5 oz, and 15 wpi.  I loves it muchly.

IMG_8375aThere, all caught up.  If you made it this far, thanks for sticking it out! :-)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Public Service Announcement

Back in July of 2006, I wrote about how my cat Tidget came to live with me instead of the local Humane Society.  Since that time, we developed into a fairly comfortable rhythm of life together.  She has a few little quirks, but so do I, so we’re even. 

Her favourite thing, other than food, is cuddling.  After the first week I got her, not a night goes by without her spending a few minutes licking either my nose or my ear, whichever is closest, and then purring away loudly for  about five minutes before falling asleep with her head resting on either my hand or my arm. 

She’s not much for sitting on a lap, though.  She’ll visit for a minute or two if I’m sitting on the couch watching television, but then she’ll go find something else to do.  She hates the vacuum cleaner, and at the slightest hint of a thunderstorm, she runs under the bed and stays there for an hour or so.  I have never been completely able to convince her to use the scratching post instead of the carpet on the stairs, but she never used the furniture.  No one’s perfect. 

She’s not a particularly needy cat, like some I’ve had, but  when she wants loving, nothing will stop her from planting herself firmly against my chest, one front leg on either side of my neck, head tucked firmly under my chin, insisting on being petted and rubbed and even squeezed.  She purrs so much she starts drooling.  It’s kind of gross, but in an endearing way that probably only another cat person would understand.

When I got Muushuu in January of 2007, she quickly accepted him, or at least his physical presence.  They’ve never become best buddies, but they will often both be sleeping on the back of the loveseat – on opposite side of it.  She’ll accept him grooming her for brief periods, but I’ve only ever seen her take a half-hearted lick at his forehead once.  She has no problem sharing the litter box, and she delights in cleaning up his food bowl if he leaves some behind.  All in all, it’s been a fairly happy little family.

On Monday night, when I came from work, I was met at the door by only one cat, Muushuu.  This isn’t particularly unusual, especially if Tidget is sleeping downstairs.  I usually just go about my business, which will ultimately conclude in them getting fed a bit of wet food to supplement their regular diet of dry, and usually she’ll come upstairs when she realizes what is happening and sit waiting semi-patiently for me to open the can and prepare their bowls.  That didn’t happen this past Monday, though.  I kept thinking she’d come up any minute, but Muushuu was already eating and still no Tidget.  I decided I better go get her.

She wasn’t sleeping on the bed, where I would normally find her.  She wasn’t in the office, under the desk, where she would sometimes have a nap.  She wasn’t in the storage room where I keep their litter box. She wasn’t under the bed, where she would go if something startled her.  Something wasn’t right.  I looked in the bathroom, and even checked the tub.  No Tidget.  Back upstairs I went.  Not on the couch or either of the chairs.  Not by the radiator that runs under the credenza in the dining room.  I looked behind the couch, in case she’d fallen and got wedged against the wall.  Nope.  I looked behind the wall unit where I keep the tv, thinking maybe she’d gone back there and got tangled in some wires.  I made another round of the whole house, checking all the closets and hidey-holes.  Nope, no Tidget. 

And then, I remembered.

That morning, I was running just a little bit late.  Not much, only about five minutes.  The day before, I had picked up some granola bars to take to work in case I got the munchies.  After I’d closed the door and gone down the front steps, I remembered that I’d left them inside on the window ledge, where I’d put them while I was putting on my shoes.

So, I went back into the house, walked the four steps to the ledge, grabbed the granola bars and stuffed them in my pocket, then four steps back to the door.  Then I saw that the door had swung open.  I saw it and it registered on my consciousness because I always, always, always push it shut so it clicks, even if my arms are full of groceries coming in or garbage bags going out or whatever.  I always shut it till it clicks.  But this time, I hadn’t.  It was open for the time it takes to take three steps in and three steps out -- less than five seconds.  Muushuu was asleep on the couch, and Tidget was asleep downstairs on the bed, and I was five minutes behind schedule.  A glance at the front porch revealed nothing amiss, so I locked the door again as I left and went to work.  Except … Tidget must not have been asleep on the bed downstairs. 

I realized what must have happened.  At this point, I’d been gone for over 12 hours, and who knows where she could have went.  She’d been strictly an indoor cat for the last three and a half years and certainly wasn’t street smart.  I put on my coat and started searching, walking the neighbourhood and calling her name, but the chances of seeing a small greyish-brown cat somewhere in the dark were pretty slim.

I was up early the next morning, and as soon as it was light, I was out again.  I widened my search, but you know, in the average suburban neighbourhood, there are a LOT of places that a cat could hunker down for a night.  I didn’t find her.  I went back home and made up some “lost cat” posters to put on the power poles and assorted neighbourhood posts.  Tidget was wearing a collar, with tags, and she was micro-chipped.  Someone would find her and call me.  I alerted the Humane Society in case someone turned her in.

It happened on Monday, and it’s now Thursday night, so Day 4.  Someone might have taken her in, but it’s not likely.  I still might get a call from the Humane Society, but that’s even less likely.  It’s getting colder out there, and now it’s raining.  She survived being a stray once, but I somehow doubt she’ll get lucky again. 

Please don’t comment and tell me what a crappy pet owner I am.  Nothing you could say would make me feel worse about myself than I already do.  My split second of inattention has more than likely had the most serious of consequences for an animal that I undertook to care for and to love.  I failed her.  Over the past 30 odd years, I’ve had five other cats besides these two, as well as three dogs, umpteen birds, lizards, fish, etc.  I am well aware of pet safety and care, and I have been proud to say that all of the animals in my care have had a full, long and rather spoiled life.  Until now. 

The anguish I’ve been going through for the past few days is nothing compared to what Tidget must be experiencing right now, if indeed she is even still alive.  I haven’t been able to accept that she is gone yet, and I will never be able to forgive myself for causing this to happen to her.  I failed her, and she is paying the price for that failure.

Why am I writing this post?  I guess it’s because I was due for a reminder.  And if I was due, maybe somebody else is too, and maybe I can save them from going through something like this. 

Here’s my public service announcement for today:

Please, whoever reads this, remember the little things we do to keep ourselves and those in our care safe.  One tiny moment of inattention can have far-reaching consequences for ourselves, our children, wife, husband, friends, neighbours, or our pets.  Please, even if you’re late or tired, even if the dog is barking or the baby is crying, even if its raining or snowing or the person driving the car in front of you is going too slow or someone is talking to you or whatever the distraction, please, just be careful.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I am a big, fat liar.

Note to self:  Possibly change post title to, “I sometimes fear for my sanity.”  Think about it.

So, I decided I wanted to knit a scarf, and I decided I wanted to use some of my handspun.  I picked out what was probably the most colourful one, my Grafton singles.

IMG_3066aNot the best picture, but it’s a felted single that graduates from blue through a yellowish to red.  You can read the details about the yarn here, but I’ll save you the trouble, because really the only pertinent detail is that I said it was 175 yards and about 10 wpi, or worsted weight.  That’s also what I filled in on the Ravelry page for the yarn, which is what I use to keep of myself.

Side note:  I read somewhere on Ravelry that when you make felted singles, you should carefully rewind the hank after washing and while it’s still barely damp-ish.  I read that well after I spun the yarn, so of course I didn’t do it.  It took a full two hours just to wind the yarn into a ball because it was stuck to itself.  If I ever do it again, I will rewind.  I was pleased, though, in that it held together quite nicely all through that process.  Yippee for felting!

Back to the scarf:  The other thing I noticed while rewinding is that the yarn was, well, kind of, umm, thin.  Like, quite thin.  As in, really thin.  Yes, there were some places where it was likely worsted weight, but for the majority, maybe fingering, possibly lace.  Yeah, that thin.  See the first line of this post?  Yeah. 

The thinness made me kind of revise my scarf plans.  I didn’t really want a wispy scarflette.  I do live in Canada, and we do have winter.  I decided to stripe it with another yarn to give the scarf more substance.  The Noro Striped scarf would be wonderful, non-concentration knitting, which was just what I needed after my father’s recent death, as my concentration really wasn’t up to much more than that.  After a bit of stash diving, I found a skein of Patons Classic Merino in Oatmeal,  Perfect!  Right? 

IMG_8168aMaybe not.  I don’t know if you can tell from the picture, but the Patons skein is just about collapsed, so there’s not much left.  The handspun, on the other hand?  Tons left.  The yellow is just barely starting to peak through, and that would be about one-third of the way through.  So the Patons skein of 220 odd yards is just about gone, and the handspun, not even a third.  But I had measured 175 yards.  Apparently not only did I mis-measure the weight of the yarn, I mis-measured the length of it.  See the first line of this post?  Yeah.

Another problem is that the difference in the yarn weight was just too much.  The handspun stripes of colour were thin and drapey, and the worsted weight oatmeal was kind of puckery and tight.  Not the best matching of yarns.

The other problem, that you can’t really tell from the photo, is that the knitting is three feet long.  If I carried on, the finished scarf would be about, what, 10 feet long?  Who knows?  Not me, because at this point I have no idea how much yarn I have. 

So what did I do?  I ripped out three feet of 1x1 two-colour ribbing, with one yarn being a single.  See the first line of this post?  Yeah.  Not fun.

Time to go stash diving again.

IMG_8253aThis was given to me by a friend, and it was given to him by his sister.  I believe she just stopped knitting for some reason, and he wouldn’t touch anything remotely woolly, so it came to me.  The yarn is a DK weight alpaca blend.  I know the yarn store it came from, and it’s been out of business for several years.  Even in it’s heyday, though, it was kind of known for having, ummm, vintage yarn. I wasn't surprised that Ravelry has never heard of Marika Country.

Starting over, I decided that I would double up the use of the handspun by knitting one stripe with both the alpaca and one with just the handspun.  I added about a third more stitches and went down a few needles sizes.

IMG_8248aYuck, and also uggh.  So, what did I do?  I ripped it out, again.  See the first line of this post?  Yeah.

Back to Plan A, with the larger number of stitches and smaller needles.  I decided to just knit until the handspun ran out, because that's the kind of mood I was in.  Three and a half 115-yard balls of Marika later, it was done.

IMG_8285aWhat did I learn?  Well, one, to measure my yarns more carefully  Maybe even two or three times.  It’s really hard to plan a project when you don’t know what you have.  Two, those people who say you don’t need to swatch for a scarf are wrong.  It would have helped in the planning process, and I don’t think I would have dug myself in so deep if I knew it was going to end up at eight feet long.  I’m short, and if I wear it looped like I would normally, it will hang down to my knees.  Folded in half and just draped around my neck, though, it will be fine, but the colour progression isn’t as obvious. Three, my neck is going to be nice and warm this winter. :-)

IMG_8314a And also:

IMG_8304aYsolda’s long tail tubular cast-on is easy and a Thing of Beauty.  

Tech Knitting’s Easy Fake tubular bind off?

IMG_8307aAlso easy, but not quite so beautiful.  I should have just Kitchenered.  And no, I am not ripping it out and doing it over, and yes, after eight feet of it, I am very much over 1x1 rib for a while.

The wheel has also been busy.

IMG_7885aThis superwash BFL from a CJ Kopec spin-a-long is now …

IMG_8196a… some three-ply sock yarn, and it *might* be 368 yards, 16 wpi.