Blogiversary Raffle

My first full year of blogging has slipped by without my even noticing—but I won’t let that interfere with the celebrations. What celebrations? Why, the first (annual?) What If Knits Save-the-Cats (and Other Animals) Blogiversary Raffle.

Here’s the general plan: I’m going to put together an excellent group of prizes. To be entered in the raffle, just make a small donation to any of the animal protection/rescue sites listed on my links page (more info and links below). Then send me an email (shATwhatifknitsDOTcom) to let me know about your donation. For every $2 you give, I’ll put your name into the draw. Give $2, your name goes in once. Give $20, your name goes in ten times. We’ll be using the honor system, so just tell me when you donate. I’ll believe you. As an incentive to get the word spread, I’ll add your name an extra three times if you post about this raffle on your own blog with a link back to mine. I’ll do the actual prize draw at noon, California time on Thursday, February 14 (it’s all about the love, people!).

The Prizes
I’m still working on these, so the list below is just for starters.

The grand prize will be my recently completed Swallowtail Shawl, worked in Louisa Harding Cinnabar, and displayed here with the help of the lovely Beatrice.
The shawl

The shawl, again
(Bea is all for anything that brings money in to animal rescue groups. If other people rescue those needy creatures, then her own mother won’t feel compelled to bring them home.)

Bea approves of the shawl
Because it’s knit with worsted-weight yarn, the shawl measures a full six feet across. The mix of cotton, rayon, and metallic fibers gives it a lovely drape and makes it easy to dress up or down.

Other prizes will include knitting books, yarn, and additional hand knits. I’ll post a full inventory on Monday.

The Organizations
You’ll get raffle entries for donations to any of the following groups.

Best Friends. The largest no-kill shelter in the U.S., Best Friends specializes in caring for the animals other groups can’t handle. Cats with urinary problems? They go straight to the Incontinental Suite. Dogtown allows dogs to live in “packs” that have large play areas and cozy shelters. There are also special accommodations for birds, bunnies, farm animals, and wildlife. Besides providing on-site care for all these animals, Best Friends coordinates workshops across the country that help other shelters develop their own no-kill programs.

Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley. This native-animal rescue group works to help the creatures whose lives and habitats are disrupted by the spreading human population. Every year, they care for hundreds of creatures, ranging from bobcats to baby squirrels. (Have a local native-animal rescue group you’d rather give to? Fine with me! Let me know about your donation to them, and I’ll count it towards the raffle.)

Project Purr. This group provides care for Santa Cruz feral cat colonies—and tames and finds loving homes for wild cats when possible. (Again, if you have a local equivalent to this group and you’d prefer give to them—I’ll count it.)

Alley Cat Allies. Does on a national level what Project Purr does locally, caring for feral cats, making sure they get neutered so that colonies diminish in size over time, and providing support to local rescue organizations. They also track local, state, and national legislation affecting ferals.

The Duke University Lemur Center. We humans are primates, and some of the most charming members of our extended family are lemurs. Lemurs exist only on the island of Madagascar, off the coast of Africa, where poverty and habitat destruction put them all at risk of extinction. The Lemur Center engages in global research and conservation efforts, including raising and releasing captive-bred lemurs back to the wild.

The Jane Goodall Institute. This organization works to preserve primate habitat, improve ecology education, support non-invasive research on primates, and to ensure quality of life for primate species the world over.

Those are the basics. Keep me posted on your donations and your postings. Melissa will work on a button. I’ll get more prizes (and prize photos) posted.

Conclusive Proof…

… that I pretty much have no excuse for buying more yarn.

This past weekend, Melissa helped me get my house in order. As part of the residential hygiene program, I finally got my yarn into one location. No more skeins shoved behind the canned goods in the pantry cupboard. No stash under the phone table. I even emptied out the trunk of my car. (I think Melissa cringed a bit when I said I was going to get the yarn out of the trunk; I’d never actually mentioned that auxiliary stash to her before.)
The giant giant stash
As you can see, the results of this undertaking were literally monumental. And this photo was taken before that other yarn I ordered showed up in the mail yesterday. (You may also want to note the hand-knit cats toys dangling from the climbing tree, courtesy of my niece, Miss Sparkles.)

What to do with all this delicious yarn?

Lucky for me, my copy of Kim Hargreaves’ Heartfelt arrived at The Golden Fleece last week. Once I finish my version of the Sugarplum Shrug, I am casting on for Ward.

I have—surprise!—just the yarn for it: Malabrigo. I’m still deciding between Glazed Carrot and Golden Ochre.

Once Ward is done, Tess is next in line.

There isn’t a pattern in this book that I dislike. I do like some more than others. Some might flatter my particular figure more than others. Some might make for more interesting knitting than others. But this book has not a single loser! If you haven’t seen it yet—check it out. If you have seen it—which are your favorites?

Tuesday Mewsday: Kitty Cabin Fever

Here in California it’s rain rain raining, and the cats are thoroughly disgusted, both with the weather and the prospect of all being in the house at the same time.
Luckily, they received a very thoughtful Christmas gift from Sarah-Hope’s nephew. Beatrice is delighted with fleece-on-a-stick, and is taking out her cabin fever energy in chasing and killing it.
Bea chases fleece on a stick

She hopes, with practice, that she might enter the rhythmic gymnastics competetion at the next Olympics.
Bea chases fleece on a stick

Bea chases fleece on a stick

Sparky and Penny are in agreement on one thing, at least: they prefer to spend their time hibernating.
Sparky in his fleece bed Penny in her fleece bed

(Sarah-Hope is also hibernating today; this column is guest-written by Melissa)

Short—and Not So Sweet

I thought I’d gotten that nasty grease spot out of my yellow shirt, but now that I’m standing in my office preparing to go to class, I realize I was deluding myself.

Knitting Merrily Along

Such indulgence! I had to go in to the office both days this past weekend, so to make up for it I skibbled off campus after teaching yesterday and spent the day knitting. Today I’ve got one two-hour meeting to go to, so I know I’ll get in another bit of knitting. I also got to meet up with Chris on Monday evening for some knitting (and trading!), so this week is shaping up much more satisfactorily than last week from a fiber arts perspective.

The Swallowtail Shawl is done, except for weaving in of ends and blocking. Here’s an in-progress shot from last Friday.
Psychedelic shawl in progress
The colors aren’t quite right, but you can see the weight of yarn I used and the stitch definition I got.

I’m now happily knitting away on my own version of the Sugarplum Shrug (second project pictured as you scroll down) from the IK Holiday issue. I’m using some chocolate brown angora I got from Little Knits, which is absolutely delicious. The yarn feels heavenly running through my fingers and the color a delicious tinge of purple to it. I’m knitting the lace on a garter stitch base instead of stockinette, so that the piece has more texture. (Texture! Texture! Texture! I am all about the texture!) I’m also planning to come up with my own edging that can be picked up along the edges and knit in the round, rather than knitting lace separately then sewing it on as the pattern calls for.

The yarn swap with Chris was great! She got my lavender bamboo (all 2,500 yards of it!), and I’m also giving her two skeins of Cherry Tree Hill: one of bulky wool and one of babyloop mohair. In return I got a bag of three colors of Dale of Norway wool, five skeins of a silk-wool blend from Drops and a Rowan book. We are each of us absolutely convinced that we got the best end of the deal—which is as it should be.

What I would really love to be doing just now is designing my own shrug and working it up in the pumpkin-colored wool-silk blend I just got from Elann, but there’s not quite enough room in my brain for that project at the moment. The best I can do is play fast and loose with someone else’s pattern. I am perhaps a bit behind the times from a fashion perspective, but suddenly shrugs are striking me as the most delightfully cozy and versatile garments—I want dozens of them!

P.S. Here is my latest favorite thing to do on Ravelry: look at other people’s queues. I surf around the new FOs until I find something lovely, then I look at what that person has in her queue. I get all sorts of things to add to my own that I would never have come across by any other means. I’ve also just learned (breakthrough moment!) that I can add comments on the items in my queue, so I dutifully went back and added info on pattern price and availability, along with yarn and variation ideas. If anyone else is cruising queues, I want to be sure she has a good time in mine!

Tuesday Mewsday: Two’s Company; Three’s a Crowd

That’s what Melissa calls this pair of photos.

When the weather gets cold, Maggie and Damian snuggle.
Maggie and Damian cuddle up
Sometimes there is a bit of too-vigorous ear-washing and things go all to hell, but the lower the temperature the less frequent the squabbles.

Archy, on the other hand, doesn’t care how cold it is.
Archy says bah humbug
He will not be snuggling up with Maggie or Damian—even if his home gets as cold as Lambeau Field during a Packers play-off game.

And now, I must write up the last handout for my 10:00 class. With luck, I’ll be able to sneak in a few rows on my new knitting project once that’s done.

Holiday Handcrafts

Christmas gift-giving with my family usually means one or both of two things: books and needlework. All the women at our holiday celebrations (with the exception of Melissa) are needleworkers of one sort or another. And every one of us, regardless of gender, loves getting lost in a good book.

This year, my mom gave me a knitted scarf, which has been getting lots of wear with the unusually cold weather we’ve had recently.

My sister, brother, and parents each gave me some of the Harmony wood needles I’d asked for.
Pining for needles
These are an absolute joy to work with: sharp points, a wonderful feel in the hands, and pretty to look at. (I only asked for double points and 16″ fixed cord circulars, so I can’t vouch for the mechanisms on the interchangeable Harmony needles, with which people have reported having mixed results.)

I even got three kinds of yarn!
Whee yarn
The orange and yellow variegated wool is from Melissa’s sister Joanna. I’m planning to knit it up into a bulky-weight version of the Doubles Hat from Trek Casts On. The white yarn is hard to see in its packaging, but it’s an organic cotton from the Alternative Gift Fair at my mom’s church. (It would actually make a very nice Doubles Hat as well.) And that wonderful blue yarn with the loopy texture is from a dear family friend. I expect I’ll be knitting it in with something else–perhaps to make a heavier, textured edging on a shawl.

One of my favorite Christmas gifts this year was a bundle of hankies my mom picked up at a church sale.
Nothing to sneeze at
I have quite a stash of these and have been planning for years to make a Butterfly Hankie Quilt. In case you’ve never seen one, click here for some lovely examples. The pattern is simple, and one can hide imperfections with a bit of judicious folding.

Isn’t it great when the people we love appreciate the things we love? Lucky, lucky me!

Allow Me to Be the Voice of Temptation (Alternate Title: A Knitter’s Economic Stimulus Package)

Oh, that I were made of money! Check out these special prices on full bags:

Amerah by Southwest Trading Company, 100% silk, 97 yards per skein, $24.99 per bag at Discontinued Brand Name Yarn. My favorite, of course, is Cantalope, but there are lots of shades available in colors that are simultaneously perky and relaxing.

Gianna by Southwest Trading Company, 50% soy silk, 50% wool, 90 yards per skein, $1.99 per ball = $19.90 per bag (!), also at Discontinued Brand Name Yarn. This bulky weight yarn looks to have a lovely sheen and comes in warm, rich colors. My faves? Opulence and Venetian Blue. (Hah! You thought I was going to pick Treasure Chest, didn’t you?)

Korall Fancy by Laines du Nord, 100% wool, 63 yards per skein, $24.75 per bag at Little Knits. These are bulky-weight marls in lively color combinations. I would like two bags in every colorway, thank you.

Poor Melissa (An Almost Completely Non-Knitting-Related Post)

To be saddled with me.

She gave me this blog for Christmas a year ago—one of the absolute best gifts ever—and now is saddled with photography/uploading/downloading/troubleshooting duties. She encouraged me to write up my knitting patterns and now is also saddled with more photography/formatting/troubleshooting duties.

Ravelry ups the technological ante. I can navigate Ravelry just fine on my own, but spending time there leads me to various things that cause me to bat my eyes and come out with sentences that begin, “Honey…?” and that end with Melissa coming to the rescue in all sorts of ways.

And the Ravelry universe is big. One doesn’t just find knitting enticements and conundrums. One finds all sorts of temptations.

Case in point: I signed up for Ravelry’s Scientific Knitters Group. Not that I am a scientist, but I love reading, talking, thinking about various kinds of science. And one of the conversational threads on the Scientific Knitters Group is a discussion of good science podcasts available for down-loading.

There are Emerging Infectious Diseases podcasts, Quirks and Quarks out of Canada, a program called Radio Lab, science podcasts from the New York Times, Nature, and Scientific American, a science-for-laypeople podcast called The Naked Scientists, the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe, even individually produced programs like The Missing Link.

Having discovered all these, I have of course dashed off an email to Melissa (who today is attending the Seventh International Conference on Neuroesthetics in Berkeley—I am not the only info-geek in our relationship, I’ll have you know) chock-full of questions. How do I download these? What does it mean to subscribe to a podcast? Is there any way to do this all systematically? And—will you help me pick out an ipod, Honey?

I sense a whole new obsession coming on. If science podcasts were chum and I was a shark, we’d have a full-on feeding frenzy.

Lucky for me, knitting and podcast-listening are highly compatible.

P.S. While this all may be of limited interest to many of you, I’m posting about it in hopes of helping out other scientific wanna-bes.


[guest post by Melissa]
Sarah-Hope emailed me a link to KitKatKnit, where there is a Bunnythumper photo contest. What is a bunnythumper? It’s a cat’s hind foot (toe to heel). And since I have possession of the camera, and cats, I was assigned, er, asked, to stalk and take photos of my cats’ feet. Here follow the results, in size order.

Damian: 5 – 1/2 inches
Damians big foot
Damian would like to point out that he should get the pinkest toes award.

Archy: 5 inches
Archys foot
The ruler is about to be eaten.

Maggie: 4 – 1/2 inches
Maggie and her dainty paws
Maggie thinks this is a bit personal to post on the internet. She would like to point out that she is a lady.

Nevertheless, she would also like to point out that she has very dainty paws indeed, and angles her hind foot to its best advantage.
Maggie is not sure about this