Cruz’n Kitties

You’ve met the Oakland cats. Now I present to you the Santa Cruz contingent.

Ladies first! This is Beatrice, full name Beatrice Grasshopper Schwartz-Noir, aka Mighty Bezoar. It is difficult to do photographic justice to her thick fur and brilliant green eyes, not least because she is convinced that the digital camera may prove to be a weapon of mass destruction. (“Just because my people haven’t turned on me and ripped me limb from limb yet doesn’t mean it won’t be on their agenda today.”)
Beatrice comes to visit.

Does this picture make my butt look big?
Bea really does have a right to be paranoid. Early on she lived in a car with a homeless man, another kitten, and two large dogs. When the man wasn’t present, the dogs turned on the kittens, killing Bea’s sibling and biting through her femur. She was taken in by my vet as a charity case just when I was looking to expand my feline family, so I lucked out. The vet put a pin through what was left of her femur, and Bea made a miraculous recovery. For the first month Bea lived with me, she had hot-pink, Frankenstein-style stitches running up one leg and had to be kept in a cage that limited her movement, so that her leg would heal properly. During that time she was cuddley and lovey as all get-out, but once she left the cage, she took off at top speed and has been an independent gal ever since.

Sparky and Woody, the “kittens,” are also rescues who came to live with me via my vet. She literally picked the boys up on a street corner, where a man with a box of kittens was trying to hand them off to passing motorists.

Sparky, full name Spartacus Eugene Keeper, has matinee-idol good looks and what appears to be trace of Abyssinian.
Sparky practices his matinee idol look.

Sparky likes to sit near me in the evening while I knit. In general, he manages to control himself, but every so often the temptation is too much for him and he snatches my ball of yarn and races off through the house with it in a stash-weasel frenzy.
I'm cute! I'm cute!
Of course, I have to forgive him. Who could resist this sweet boy?

Woody, full name Woodrow Mycroft Keeper, has taken most of the last year to grow into his nose (an excellent, hunting-tool sized nose like a Jaguar‘s, he’ll have you know).
Woody also has a matinee idol look.

While Sparky is my evening companion, Woody prefers a cuddle in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning. He likes to begin his evenings under the bed (aka The Diogenes Club). Then, he moves to the top of the bed once everyone else has fallen asleep.
Woody is a sleepy guy.

My best side!
Woody began as the runt of the pair, but has grown into a rugged young fellow and now outweighs his brother by a pound or so.

And there you have it—all cats present and accounted for.

K to J to M

Ok—this time instead of telling the knitting purists to go to the end of the entry, I’ll start with some quick knit news and then ramble.

This weekend I got two more splint covers knit up for my niece in lacier patterns. The one that worked best began with four rows of K2, P2 rib, then switched to alternating rows of K2, YO, K2tog and YO, K2tog, K2, ending with four more rows of rib. This produced a sturdy, but lacey diagonal mesh.

I knit most of another face cloth as well, this time using Rhonda K. White’s Lacey Round Cloth pattern. It’s quite pretty with its mix of garter and eyelets. I’m also delighted with the zig-zag border. This business of connected wedges turning into circles interests me. I want to keep knitting up patterns like this until I get to the point that I can design my own. (The “what if” questions: What if I adapted this technique to a shawl? To a hat? Could I maintain the laciness while working on a larger scale or would everything just go all clunky?)

By the way—if you’re like me and can only find Sugar ‘n Cream, but not Peaches & Creme in local shops, you can order this yarn directly from the maufacturer. Peaches & Creme has a much wider color range and is reasonably priced, even with postage, if you order one-pound cones.

And that is all the knitting.

This morning when I woke up, Sparky and Woody lay curled in one another’s arms at the foot of the bed. Sparky was completely zonked, and Woody had his eyes open the littlest squinty bit and was giving Sparky’s left ear a very thorough washing. They used to sleep together like this all the time, but have grown more independent now that they’re “big boys.” (Big is right—each of them looks as if he’s swallowed a small cannon ball.)

Then Woody woke up a bit more, decided to groom himself, and—to facilitate grooming, no doubt—sat down right on top of Sparky and got to work on his own hind foot. This brought Sparky out of his stupor, and we had a few minutes of “Woody must die! No!—Sparky must die! No!—Woody must die!” before things settled down again.

This little skirmish made me think of my favorite columnist, Jon Carroll, who not only writes great political and thought pieces, but also can conjure up a cat column extraordinaire. (See here and here and here for a few examples.)

And thinking of Jon Carroll cat columns made me think of my mother, who brings great joy to my life by providing me with a custom clipping service. (This, of course, is only one the myriad ways she brings joy to my life, but it’s the way I’m focusing on at the moment.) I don’t get a paper daily paper. Instead, I subscribe to the New York Times on line, which provides good general news coverage, runs twenty automatic, customized searches a day for topics of interest (my choices range from Church and State to Supreme Court to Patriot Act to Lemurs), and allows me to create my own database of materials in areas of interest, which comes in handy for my teaching.

So, by using the NY Times and other sources (particularly NPR), I get my daily news, but I don’t get a daily paper. This is where my mom comes in. Every single day, she goes through both of the newspapers she and my father receive and clips every item that might be of interest to me. (She actually does this times three, as she also sends clippings to my brother and sister.)

Articles on new dinosaur species? Check.
Articles on any kind of fossil at all? Check.
Pieces on educational innovation? Check.
All things knitting, quilting, embroidery, and sewing related? Check.
Geology? Check.
Astronomy? Check.
Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary? Check.
Retirement planning? Check.
Political cartoons on education? Check.
Cat Care? Check.
Crossword puzzles? Check.
Mutts? Check.
Get Fuzzy? Check.
Rhymes with Orange when it’s got cats in it? Check.

and

Every single column Jon Carroll writes? Check.

Once or twice a week, I get a wonderul, fat envelope full of these clippings. They make for great just-before-bed or soaking-in-the-tub or sitting-in-the-yard-on-a-beautiful-day reading. Kittens to Jon Carroll to Mom. It’s a perfectly logical chain of thought.

Cavalcade of Washcloths

And now, as promised, the fabulous cavalcade of washcloths.
Pink washcloths all in a row.
Hot Pink/Orange/Yellow. Upper left: Chain Stripes Pattern, from Barbara Walker, Volume 1, p. 66. Lower left: Petal Dishcloth, pattern by Hazel Schrock, from page 1 of the Dishcloth Boutique. Center: Three Color Loop Pattern, from the Harmony Guides, Volume 3: 440 More Knitting Stitches, p. 74. Right: Sandwich Stitch Pattern, from Barbara Walker, Volume 2, p. 54 (I liked the look of this stitch so much, I kept going and knit up a hand towel).

These washcloths are hot stuff.
Mint/Chocolate/White. Left: Double Diamond Circular Facecloth, pattern by S. Turner. Right: Petal Dishcloth, pattern by Hazel Schrock. Both of these are from page 1 of the Dishcloth Boutique.

Lovely blue washcloths.
Delft/Chocolate/White. Left: Ballband Pattern, from Mason-Dixon Knitting. Right: Doily Style Dishcloth, from page 2 of the Dishcloth Botique. Bottom: Petal Dishcloth, pattern by Hazel Schrock, from page 1 of the Dishcloth Boutique.

The cats eagerly pitched in during the photo shoot. Damian in particular made sure everything was arranged just so.
Damian always tries to be helpful.
P.S. to relatives and friends with allergies: I promise not to give you a washcloth the cat has lain on.

Splint Covers: The “Pattern”

If I’m reading the hand-signs right, my niece loves her splint cover.
I love my splint cover!
The pictured splint cover is knit in Lion Brand Yarn’s Jiffy, the Denver colorway. Another splint cover should be arriving today, in Crystal Palace’s Trio, the discontinued Kiwi-Celery colorway. (Let’s hear it for the LYS’s odd skeins and discontinueds sale bin!) I’m afraid the Trio will snag easily, but it was fun to knit with (I started fantasizing about a knitted tee for myself) and made a dense, stretchy fabric that should be comfortable to wear. And the splint covers only have to last six weeks or so.

Nice stripes.
I’m working on a lacier version now, based on the stitch I used for the Santa Cruz Hat. The weather’s starting to change in the midwest, and the girl needs to have options.

Meanwhile, here is the “pattern.”

Take three measurements (while the recipient is wearing the splint):
1. Circumference, which should be pretty much the same along the length of the splint
2. Distance from the “notch” of the of the thumb-forefinger L up the arm to the end of the splint.
3. Distance from the “notch” of the thumb-forfinger L down the hand to the other end of the splint.

For my niece, these measurements were 10″, 8.5″, and 2″.

Using the gauge information on the yarn band and appropriate double-point needles, cast on a number of stitches that is a multiple of four and that will be approximately equal to the splinted-arm circumferance (measurement #1). (I used U.S. 10.5 needles and cast on 40 stitches.)

Close the circle, place marker, and work in K2, P2 rib until you have a length equal to measurement #2. At some point on the following round, cast off four stitches as you continue working in K2, P2 rib. Then, on the subsequent round use a backwards loop cast-on to restore those four stitches. This will be the thumb hole.

Continue working in K2, P2 rib until the distance from the thumb hole to the end of the piece equals measurement #3.

Cast off.

Voila—a splint cover. It’s still not as glamorous as a cast, but it’s way more glam than an unadorned, clunky brown splint.

Coming next: a veritable cavalcade of washcloths with pattern information and links.

P.S. Last night Melissa and I went to a performance by Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble (on-line recordings here). Tonight we’re going to hear John Holloway with Philharmonia Baroque (on-line recordings here and here). Heaven!

P.P.S. We just found out today that Melissa has a neighbor with a pomeranian named—get this—Lobo.

Sunny

My mood is like the weather, warm and fresh and full of hope. I felt utterly overwhelmed when I went to bed last night—the sort of overwhelmed where you start fantasizing about how great it would be to get sick because you’d have an excuse to stay in bed—but this morning everything seems perfectly manageable. Sweet little Sparky curled up next to me in the middle of the night. (I love snuggly, lap-claiming cats, but for some reason seem to raise very independent little beasts, so I’m always glad for their cuddly moments.)

I have been knitting washcloths in a take-no-prisoners sort of frenzy, so I’ll have lots of pieces to photograph this weekend, along with links to the patterns or notes on where the stitches can be found in various stitch dictionaries. I am just goofy for my cheap cotton yarn at the moment—can’t get enough of it. Colors that I might find insipid or glaring at other times suddenly strike me as refreshing or lively. I’m thinking of sharing some of my photos with the Walker Treasury Project, a great on-line project to get colored swatches of all the stitches from Barbara Walker’s various books.

Today is my last teaching day of the winter quarter, then I have a bit of a break (though lots of class planning and other work as well) until spring quarter starts April 2. On the 29th I’m doing a “How to Write the Perfect Love Poem” workshop for high schoolers attending a writing conference on campus. I always like to broaden the possibilities some by giving a wide range of potential recipients—including one’s self. Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman” is a great I-love-me poem. Next quarter, I’m teaching a Composition class called “The Democratic Essay,” a class that aims to teach students how to write in the context of developing the skills they need to be active members of this democracy of ours. It’s a fun class because I try to follow the students’ lead in terms of topics. As a result, they’re usually quite engaged with the material and I have an excuse to spend hours at a time poring through the NY Times on line and finding other good source material from various educational and non-profit web sites.

Before all that work gets going, I’m hoping to update this blog (with Melissa‘s genius help, of course). I’ve got my eye on several web/blog rings I’d like to join. I’d also like to assemble a really good page of links, both knitting and non, to help people connect with blogs I particularly like and to try to entice them into some of my other areas of interest, like 1930s-style quilting, lemur conservation, and animal rescue.

I’ve just ordered a copy of Socks for Clogs and Sandals, which I found by way of the blog On and Off the Needles. This is the book for me, as I am a committed clog and sandal wearer. (If the shoe goes all the way around the back of my foot, it makes me sad. That’s just the way I am.) Wow, does that book open up some possibilities!

Oddments

• Ouch. Today my wrists are stiff and achy in sympathy with my niece’s. I did far too much knitting of cotton washcloths over the weekend, and, as I’m a tight knitter to start with, everything below my elbows got a bit kinked up. Then, coming home last night in the dark, I tripped over a lawn chair that I’d moved that afternoon. I slammed straight into it with both shins and flopped over it, my keys, purse, and book flying, and landed hard, wrists-first. (Insert spring-forward joke here.) No permanent damage—but it’s been quite a while since my days on the junior high gymnastics team when we used to deliberately practice crazy falls like this so we wouldn’t break anything if we ever took a real tumble.

• Washcloths. I am in love with the one I’m finishing up now—so in love that I’ve kept going and it is turning into a hand towel. I’ll post a photo and pattern once I’ve finished it. I also knit up two circular cloths using patterns from the Dishcloth Boutique that CatBookMom directed me to. For these I used the Sugar ‘n Cream Landscape colorway, a mix of mint, pale chocolate, and white—a refreshing change from my hot pinks and oranges.

• Play Ball! Yesterday, I listened to my first ballgame of the new season on the radio. I was using my hand-cranked, battery-free radio and had to re-crank at every commercial break to keep the thing from dying, but I enjoyed myself immensely. The announcers were giddy as all get-out, joking, repeating themselves, commenting on things they were doing that they wouldn’t do once the official season began. I will have to end my Netflix  and ShowBox subscription. Who has time for movies when baseball’s on the air? I’ll be at the SF Giants’ Stitch-n-Pitch this year. Are any of you planning to go?

• Daylight. I just want to say, “curse you daylight savings time!” I teach 8:00 classes, so get up at 6:00, and every year it’s the same thing. Just as we roll into March and I’m beginning to have the pleasure of waking up in daylight (sometimes before the alarm clock goes off, even), we spring our clocks forward, and I face another month or two of being cruelly jolted awake in utter darkness by that electronic beep-beep-beep-beep-beep. When I am retired and no longer have to put up with this nonsense we call civilization, I am going to keep my clocks on standard time year round.

• Socks. JayhawkKnitter of Knittin’ Honey just turned me on to this great on-line directory of sock patterns categorized by yarn weight. Oh, the possibilities! On the recommendation of Kelly B., who answered my query on the Knitter’s Review Forums, I will be knitting a pair of Fuzzyfeet slippers as a first “sock” pattern. I’ll be using the Lamb’s Pride I got from Discontinued Brand Name Yarn.

• Faultline. Melissa did a hike yesterday up Mission Peak—she wanted to sketch the faultline. If you’re interested in our highly mobile California geography, you can see some of her photos here.

• Splint Covers. The splint cover fits, but can be a pinch shorter on either end, so I’ll get going on version 2.0 now in bright green. I’ll also post that pattern (not that it’s very tricky) in the next few days.

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Worshcloths and Splint-Covers

These are the first two of my Mason-Dixon washcloths. Two lovely lovely washcloths in the sun

Aren’t the colors great?
Color and texture galore

I used their patttern for these two, but have been playing since with different stitches from the various Barbara Walker books.

When I was in fourth grade, my mother made me a sleeveless, dropped-waist dress with a little pleated skirt in a check (a sort of extra-loud gingham, if that makes any sense) in these colors. I loved that dress, and knitting something up in those same happy colors delights me no end.

Meanwhile…

My niece took a spill from her bicycle and broke her wrist. The good news is that it’s not a particularly bad break, but that’s also sort of the bad news. Since the break is minor, she wasn’t given a cast (which would be glam), but instead has to wear a splint for the next six weeks or so (which is anti-glam). My sister called me yesterday to ask if I could modify my wrist-warmer pattern to make a splint cover.

Well, of course I can, and I did. I knit up a version in the Denver colorway of Lion Brand Jiffy. I did the entire piece in 2×2 rib so that it would have extra stretch, and the colors cooperated, by winding up it candy-cane style, with no nasty pooling. The splint cover went in the mail today. Once I get a report on how it fits, I’ll be knitting up a couple more, so that my niece can have some choices. (Lime green will be coming up next.)

Stripes and Strands Hat Pattern (and One More Hat to Look At)

Behold my “Stripes and Strands” hat, knit from two skeins of sock yarn, one solid, one self-striping. This hat was inspired by my first foray into stranded knitting, the Semi-Norwegian Oak Leaf Hat (see below). I wanted to try a) mixing stranded and plain knitting and b) using a self-striping yarn as both “background” and “featured yarn” in the same project. The hat has a solid navy background with two bands of stranded work and a central band of the self-striping yarn in a simple knit stitch.
Blue hat, strands and bands
I’m including the pattern here, along with some of my thoughts about possible variations. I’d love to hear from you and to see the results if you try this pattern.

Stripes and Strands Hat

Yarn: One skein each of a solid and a self-striping sock yarn (a single-sock sized skein in each color will be more than sufficient). I used KnitPicks Essential in navy for the solid and Plymoth Sockotta in color 507 (45% cotton, 40% wool, 15% nylon) for the stripes. You can also, of course, use two solid color yarns—or, heck, two self-striping yarns if you really want to live dangerously.
Needles: 16″ circulars and double points in U.S. size 2.
Other Necessities: stitch marker, yarn needle.
(Note that I’ve used a paragraph break at each spot where you will be changing yarns.)

Chart A, Stripes and Strands Hat

Chart B, Stripes and Strands Hat

Using the solid color yarn, cast on 128 stitches, place marker, and close circle.
Work 6 rounds of K1, P1 rib.
Work one round K.

Switch to self-striping yarn and K one round.

Switch to solid yarn and K two rounds.

Switch to self-striping yarn and K one round.

Using Chart A, work eight repeats of pattern stitch in stranded knitting, being careful to always pass yarn changes under the previous yarn and to stretch the work as you knit to keep tension loose.

Switch to self-striping yarn and K one round.

Switch to solid yarn and K two rounds.

Switch to self-striping yarn and K until piece measures 4.75 inches.

Switch to solid yarn and K two rounds.

Switch to self-striping yarn and K one round.

Using Chart B, work sixteen repeats of pattern stitch in stranded knitting, being careful to always pass yarn changes under the previous yarn and to stretch the work as you knit to keep tension loose.

Switch to self-striping yarn and K one round.

Switch to solid yarn and K two rounds.

Switch to self-striping yarn and K one round.

Switch to solid yarn and K one round.
Work decreases as follows, continuing to use solid yarn and switching to double-points when necessary.
Round 1: K14, K2tog around.
All even numbered rounds:K around.
Round 3: K13, K2tog around.
Round 5: K12, K2tog around.
Continue working decreases in this way until
Round 27: K1, K2tog around.
Round 28: K2tog around.

Using yarn needle, run working thread through remaining stitches and remove these from needles. Weave ends in on wrong side of hat.

Thoughts and Variations
I was a bit disappointed that my stranded knitting design didn’t “pop” as much as I would have liked it to. It does show up, but it’s subtle—something a knitter would appreciate, but that others might not notice. To emphasize the design, choose a solid-colored yarn in a dark/rich color that does not appear in your self-striping yarn: for example, black with pastels would be ideal or you might choose a deep blue with an orange and yellow self-striping yarn. If your self striping yarn comes in deep colors and does not include white, then white or cream would also work well for the solid-colored yarn. Or, skip the self-striping yarn altogether and use two solids.

You might also enjoy playing with the two charts, substituting different designs or even words. As long as you keep the same number of columns and rows, the hat proportions will remain the same. Just remember that with stranded knitting you don’t want long runs of a single color.

This is the hat that started it all, my “Semi-Norwegian” Oak Leaf Hat.
Semi-Norwegian oak leaf hat
I’m still playing with both this pattern and the idea of Norwegian hats in general. My current mini-binge of washcloths is actually helping with this process because it’s giving me lots of opportunities to play with different combinations of variegated and solid yarns.

And then there are slip stitches and mosaic knitting. And socks—I musn’t forget about socks. The possibilities are deliciously endless!

Oak-Town Kitties

Warning: This post is 95% knitting-free, so if you don’t enjoy listening to the babblings of a besotted cat step-mom, feel free to wait for my next post. [Melissa is leaving her comments as well in brackets.]

I’ve been meaning for quite some time to give those of you who like cats a proper introduction to the feline members of our family. We’ll start with the Oakland cats—and promise to do justice to the Santa Cruz cats soon.

Behold Archy—
Archy looking up
a somewhat skinny old guy, with a croak of a meow that lets you know right away when the service isn’t up to snuff. Archy has been involved in several passionate relationships with soft green things over the years, including Brigitte, a lime-green fake-fur pillow from Ikea. Like all our cats, Archy was a rescue. Years ago, Melissa kept finding him perched on her motorcycle in the alley behind her home. He was hardly beyond kittenhood then and had little trouble working his way into her heart and in the front door. [Much to the disgust of Lulu, my extra-toed cat from the east coast, who was still with me at the time.]
Because of his early years on the street (at least that’s what we blame it on) Archy has a bit of the wanderlust. Last fall, while Melissa hiked the Camino de Santiago across northern Spain, Archy took advantage of an inattentive (I can think of other words, but I’ll just stick with “inattentive” for propriety’s sake) cat-sitter and went on the lam. The cat-sitter was fired, friends were called in to look after the remaining cats, and I found myself driving from Santa Cruz to Oakland 3-4 times a week to wander Melissa’s industrial wasteland of a neighborhood, shaking a pouch of Temptations and calling “Archy… Arrrchyyyyyyy.” I also made more visits than I ever want to remember to the Oakland and Berkeley animal shelters. I left with a broken heart each time, not just because of Archy, but because of all the marvelous cats so desperate for a home and a chance to share their love. [Sarah-Hope is a saint! as are my friends.]
In an amazing stroke of good luck, a couple in the neighborhood found him late at night three weeks after he’d disappeared and one day before Melissa returned home. He’d lost almost a third of his total weight and had an abscess in his mouth, but he’s made a fully recovery, as these photos attest.

Here we have Archy close up…
Archy is a moviestar!

…and in profile.
Archy has a handsome profile!

And this is Melissa’s portrait of Archy.
Archy captured in paint for posterity
He was younger when she painted this, but he’s definitely grown into the air of crochityness and gravitas that the painting suggests. [It’s rather like Gertrude Stein growing to look like the portrait Picasso painted…]
And, yes, he’s named after the literary cockroach.

We now have the honor of presenting Maggie Gloriana Moo-Woozle, the queen of the household.
Maggie does not like having her picture taken.
Maggie is stalwart in her affections. She spends a good part of each day looking after her “babies” (those stretchy, kind of terry-cloth-like pony-tail holders), moving them up and down stairs, lining them up at the water dish for swimming lessons and such.
Maggie was an unwed mother who’d just been quitted of both kittens and uterus when Melissa adopted her. She has a rather unusual build (short legs, long back) and favors dolman sleeves on her fur coat. [Maggie is very glamorous!]

Of course a cat as glamorous as Maggie is used to the paparazzi…
Get that camera out of my face

But she has to set limits sometimes, despite her public’s insatiable desire for her image.
Damn paparazzi!

I’ve already mentioned Damian. Now here’s the face to go with the description.
Damian trying to look innocent
Melissa found Damian and his brother “B” (who sadly did not survive) abandoned in broad day-light, miserable in the heat and sun with eyes still closed and bodies covered in fleas. His rough beginning has not, however, had any lasting impact on his growth. (You will note in the above photo his exquisite man-udder, which spills over his feet with great majesty. He’s frightfully proud of it.)
Because he was bottle-fed, Damian is highly interactive and always willing to pitch in with the project at hand. In fact, his New Year’s resolution was “Be more helpful”—and he’s stuck to it with a vengance.
[When I first found the kittens, the vet was not at all optimistic about their survival, but I brought them home anyway, determined to nurse them back to health. But just in case, I only called them “A” and “B” at first, so I wouldn’t become too attached to them. As if!]

Here Damian is helping with the knitting. (Nothing improves the quality of a fiber more than a bit of judiciously applied cat spit, eh?)
I can help with that!
He also likes to help with painting, cooking, mat board cutting, computing, and, of course, eating. His usual strategy is to leap onto the table, then keel over as if he is utterly weak and exhausted… which leads the poor boy to rest his frail head on the rim of any nearby dish… and then, even though he’s about to lose consciousness completely, he manages to find just enough energy to move his lips the least little bit—and you wouldn’t begrudge a dying kitty a last bit of food would you?
Actually, we do, so Damian often spends dinnertime in the bathroom. [The only room in the house with a door!]

When you come to visit, Damian will be glad to nuzzle you with his perpetually wet nose.
I am a handsome man

If you’ve made it this far, you must be as mad about cats as we are. Huzzah! for nature’s finest species.