Tuesday Mewsday: Otterly Delightful

Ok—otters aren’t cats.

But they are furry and playful and a pleasure to watch. Oh—and they also like seafood.

As I mentioned last week, one of Melissa’s jobs while we visited midwest family was to paint otters on the wall of Miss Sparkles’ younger brother. Otter Boy, as we’ll call him, is fascinated by these creatures. He plans to marry an otter when he grows up: Some of our kids will be people and some will be otters and at our wedding reception we’ll have fish and we’ll bar-b-que it for the people, but the otters can eat theirs raw. He has been wanting otters on his walls for years, but I simply wasn’t up to the task. Luckily, he is now able to draw on the artistic talents of Aunt Melissa.

She painted river otters.
River otters
(These are pre-whisker pictures, so just paint those in in your imagination.) Mama is Fudge; baby is Timmy, which is short for Timid.

She painted sea otters.
Sea otters
Mama’s named Browner; baby’s named Speedy. (“Browner” comes from his beloved Ollie the Otter book.)

She even threw in a turtle for good measure.

Home, Home, Home

I’m back home again, enjoying the mild Santa Cruz weather and trying to diffuse peace among the feline members of the household. It appears that when I’m gone, they spend the majority of their time contemplating their hatred for one another, so everyone is on the qui vive and ultra-touchy when I return.

My summer Shakespeare class starts tomorrow and my little home is being sanded today in preparation for painting, so all is chaos under heaven. I did have the good sense to pick up lots of fresh fruit and veggies on the way to work, so at least I have no excuse for making things crazier by grabbing candy bars when I need a snack.

My leaf-yoke sweater has a little less than half a sleeve to go, so I’m hoping to finish it up tonight or tomorrow. Then I’m going to play with a few more one-skein pattern ideas for some yarn from Curious Creek. I spent much of the day yesterday sifting through all the new stuff I’d missed on Ravelry and the various free pattern sites during my travels. My favorite free patterns include the Tonsil Toaster from Wool in Hand; the Simple Dress from More Knits, which makes some nice use of ribbing to help with shaping and would make a good charity knit; Gudrun Johnston’s Taj Mahal from Knit on the Net, which has wonderful texture at the neck and hem; and the American Girl sweaters for doll and child from Classic Elite. I’m also quite taken with the Gillaspie Gothic Gauntlets from Counting Sheep Studio, which are knit to resemble medieval armor. This last pattern costs $6, but that seems like a fair price given the intricacy of the finished product.


Melissa has finished two pairs of otters, both mothers with babies: one marine set, one river set. Pictures will most definitely be forthcoming. The river pair have been named Fudge and Tiny. The marine pair still await their christening.

I have finished the body and have one-and-a-quarter sleeves and two front bands to go on the Leaf Yoke Cardigan. It will be lovely when finished, but the shape pre-blocking is quite silly, rather as if baby is expected to wear football shoulder pads.

I am hoping for a thunder storm later today. We almost never get them inmy part of California (maybe once every five or six years), and I do love the wind and the booming and the pounding of the rain.

Tuesday Mewday: More Than One Way to Weasel a Stash

Silly me. I’d thought Sparky was the only stash weasel in the family; that is, until one day last week….

Knitting happily away on a Leaf Yoke Cardigan (from Nashua Hanknits’ Bloom) to add to the little bundle of projects I’m planning to send to Afghans for Afghans, I noted that Bea was suddenly unusually frisky behind me. Normally, when Bea gets busy, she’s trying to hunt out an undisclosed location so secure that not even Dick Cheney can find her, but there was nothing discrete about her frolicking. I turned around to get a better look at her gambols, and found her batting about what appeared to be a large, green, hairy tumbleweed.

No, not a tumbleweed. Something with a fluffy aura. Something more familiar. Familiar… but not that particular color.

Bea was wrecking havoc upon a skein of mohair that I’d never set eyes on before in my life. Had I passed beyond SABLE to SABRe (Stash Acquisition Beyond Recollection)? No. This was a mohair in a quite a lovely deep green that I surely wouldn’t forget.

So I scooped up the yarn and made a quick inventory of my neighbors who knit, then steered myself in the direction of the closest of their houses. A knock on a door, a quick conversation. Yes, my neighbor Alice did recognize that yarn. It was part of a project she’s working on. A project that she’d carefully stored in a basket in her bedroom.

Sparky may be a jailbird, but Beatrice apparently has a penchant for breaking and entering.

I count myself lucky that the mohair was still in reasonably good condition, and that Alice wasn’t inclined to press charges. In fact, she was good-spirited enough to laugh at the whole thing.

P.S. Melissa and I are in the midwest visiting family on my side. I am having a lovely time knitting with Miss Sparkles, we’re both enjoying watching minor-league ball with her older brother, and Melissa is painting bedroom murals of otters at the request of her younger brother. I’m posting from the local public library. Thank goodnes Al Gore had the foresight to invent the internet!

Loose Ends

I really need to get busy with the yarn needle. Besides the Noro shawl I posted about earlier this week, I’ve got at least four other pieces of (almost) completed knitting that are just waiting to have some ends woven in.

Two are Impressionist Cowls (need to get a pic). I love this pattern and the I-cord bind off I learned from it.

Then there’s the Plaited Cable Cowl in yummy, yummy Cash Vero to keep me warm at Giants games.
Gray neckwarmer. Go Giants!

Finally, there’s this cute little child’s vest to add to the Afghans for Afghans pile.
Brown cable childs vest
It’s based on the Guernsey Pullover pattern from Nashua Handknits’ Blossom.

Let’s hope there’s something good on tv tonight to help me along.

Two Little Scarves and How One Grew

I’ve had two scarves on the needles.

The Good Little Scarf that Everyone Loved
That would be this lovely Reversible Lace Cables Scarf, a pattern I picked up at Hobby Lobby while visiting mid-western relatives way back before I ever even started knitting. It was pretty, I figured I might learn to knit some day, and it was on sale for $1.19 (surely a sign from the fiber gods that I was meant to purchase it!).
Blue scarf in progress
This scarf makes me very happy. I have to stop after every set of four rows to stroke it and marvel at its reversible loveliness (six rows of mock cables on one side, five on the other, but completely identical aside from that one difference). How did the designer figure this stitch out? By the time I’ve knit up the entire scarf will the stitch make enough sense to me that I’ll be able to employ it in others kinds of garments: a reversible shawl, say?

The yarn I’m working with adds to the pleasure: Zitron Trekking Hand Art, which comes in nice, fat 462 yard skeins. Now, I am not a blue person. Oranges, yes. Green, yes. Red and yellow and purple, yes. But blue? It’s usually not even on my radar. But how could I resist this colorway? The royal blue is deep, deep, deep, and the turquoise just shoots through it star-like in twinkling little bursts. I’ve got this yarn stashed in several other colorways and am quite pleased that I had the good sense to purchase it when I did.

The Bad, Bad Scarf that Wasn’t Loved At All
Really, I have tried, but my heart is hardened against this scarf; I do not love it and I never will.
Lacy green scarf in progress
The pattern is simple, but perfectly nice, Miss Crazy from Die Wollust. The yarn is a crunchy, refreshing celery-colored raw silk from Habu. But put them together and what do you get? Raging boredom and a limp, nothing of a knit.

That is why I began my morning by frogging the entire thing. Sometimes frogging can be a bittersweet affair, but I unraveled this baby with all the carelessness of a cold-hearted gold-digger giving the brush-off to a doddering octogenarian. Now I have the thrill of thinking up all sorts of new things I can do with this yarn. Combine it with sock weight and knit a shawl in alternating strips of one yarn and both? Knit some lace for a sexy boudoir pillow? Really, I have no idea. But possibility is, oh, so much nicer than the reality that was that scarf just a few hours ago.

Tuesday Mewsday: Mighty Bezoar

Bea sees Penny; trouble brewing

Of all the cats, I think Bea is happiest to have me back. When I’m away, she becomes a full-time outdoor cat, while Sparky and Penny go to full-time indoors. This is because a) It is absolutely essential to ensure that Bea and Penny will not cross paths in my absence, thus preventing the mother of all opera club gatherings and b) I’m pretty sure that if she were left locked inside for more than a single day, Bea would have no trouble digging through drywall, insulation, and all the rest to make her own exit, thank you.

I’ve said before that Bea is not a particularly affectionate beast, but really I’m not being fair to her. She is wonderfully affectionate and truly devoted to me–she just shows it in her own way. Most cats express their love in predictable ways: weaving in and out between your legs as you walk, giving head bumps, quickly claiming an available lap. Bea is more subtle than that.

How do I know she loves me? I know because she sits as far across the room from me as possible, her back politely turned, and purring contentedly. I know because she sits beneath my lawn chair when I’m sunning outside (just so long as I pretend I don’t see her). I know because, when I’ve been gone too long, she hectors me from across the yard upon my return, letting out a long string of her gravelly little smoker’s meows.

Around midnight last night, she woke me up demanding door service, then ducked quickly past me, avoiding any petting when I let her in. She scooted upstairs, took her position in the far corner opposite the bed, and purred away while I worked on falling back asleep.

What I Knit on My Honeymoon

The terrifying truth is that between family visits and our honeymoon, during the six-week period ending on July 31, I will have spent more time away from home than at home. While every trip has been a delight (alert to sister-in-law-who-knows-who-she-is: don’t go pretending you think I’m saying I didn’t enjoy my time with you—you know we both had a blast!), I do fret a great deal about what the cats are getting up to in my absence. Has Bea gone completely feral? Who will have more puncture wounds when I return, Sparky or Penny? And did I adequately barricade the stash to keep it safe from bored felines (particularly a rotund little fellow with a middle name of Gladstone)? 

Still, no matter how wide-ranging my travels or how all-encompassing my kitty-fretting is, I do make time to knit. It is, after all, what keeps me from going completely over the edge, even on trans-continental flights on which I am separated from Melissa and crammed into a non-reclining window seat on the back row of the plane. (Note that chivalrous Melissa had things even worse: she was wedged between two amply built business men who alternated between trying to sell her phone systems and providing stereophonic snores for her listening pleasure.)

So, without further ado, I present my Noro Mohana, based on the pattern by Smoking Hot Needles.

Here’s the whole thing.
The new striped shawl

And here’s a close-up of the middle and last lace patterns.
The new striped shawl, detail

I really enjoyed knitting this piece—though you’ll notice that I omitted the loopy and time-consuming cast-off. Each lace pattern is simple enough to be manageable, but none goes on so long as to become boring. I’m planning to knit a second of these in solid-colored yarn, so that the stitch patterns will have a chance to stand on their own, but I’m pleased with how the self-striping yarn looks knit up. It’s Noro’s Kureyon Sock, and I have to say that based on this experience, I probably won’t be buying the yarn again. The colors are gorgeous, but the yarn was one snarl after another. I’d knit two or three rows, then spend ten minutes easing apart a handful of knots, knit again, then find myself fiddling with another wooly tumbleweed.

Mohana isn’t the only gorgeous free pattern that Smoking Hot Needles has on her site. Chack out her Grasshopper Scarf, “His Scarf” (which would make a great gift for someone of either gender), and the Kyla Fingerless Gloves. She’s really come up with some lovely pieces and is quite generous in sharing them.

By the way, I’ve decided to tuck this shawl carefully away, so that come next February I can use it as one of the prizes on my second annual blogiversay raffle. If you like it, you’ll have a chance to make it yours.