A Hive for Your Head...

...A hive for your 'do, and flames for your feet! Courtesy of Coats & Clark's, 1967.

In case you can't fully appreciate the lovely "Amethyst/Mid Rose/Nile Green" headpiece at center, here is another photo:
I decided the "After-Ski Socks" also merited a close-up. Red, white, and blue was apprently all the rage. My dear spouse spotted these and commented that they wouldn't be so bad in black, red, and orange, "Like flames."

Um, yeah, okay. Then again, this is one of the reasons I adore him. I see scary Skipper Blue, Flame, and white Apres-Ski socks, he sees cool flaming footwear.

I'm not even going to elaborate on the "Dog's Crochet Coat and Hood" (why didn't they show the hood, I wonder?) in "Antique Gold and Baby Yellow."

Go 1967!

Kitten Update

We got Isis' bloodwork back and her CBC was completely normal. No indications of distemper--whew! Next step is to take a stool sample to our vet--could be worms or something. (I've actually never had a kitten that didn't need to be dewormed, but I didn't know worms could cause such a high fever.)

In the meantime, Isis is getting back to being her crazy, playful kittenish self and has had a pretty wholesome appetite today. Hooray!

I've taken the fleece and started doing a little carding, but it's so tedious...yet must card to spin, and must spin to have llama yarn!


Cables, Kittens, and Fleece

Here it is--my first cableknit scarf! I used the same yarn as for the "Life" blanket (Caron Simply Soft in Bone), and this Irish hiking scarf pattern, with one finished Irish hiking wristwarmer pictured at left. The scarf took longer than I'd anticipated, but I'm really happy with the results. And I love cable! If you've never tried it, don't be afraid. I'm a new knitter, and it really isn't hard. You only have to put in the twist every eight rows on this pattern, and it looks so beautiful. Rosalynn suggested using a double-pointed needle to work the cable stitches, which is far easier than using a cable needle. And voila!

I altered the wristwarmer pattern a bit, so the cables go farther up the back of the hand, and made a buttonhole instead of opening the seam for the thumb. Also, I'm working this pair in the round. (I knit the pair I made for my mom flat, then seamed them). Admittedly, it's a bit more awkward to make cables in small rounds than on straight points. But hey, no seams to sew at the end!

Something else I tried was this Russian Join. I hate weaving in ends, and this works great. (Another little tip from Ros, thanks!) It leaves a slightly thicker spot where the yarn is joined, but to me this is far better than having ends that work themselves out despite my best efforts. Yay for the Russian Join!

Here Isis models the finished objects for you, as she briefly stirs from a nap. She has actually been sick this weekend, requiring an emergency visit to the Michigan State University Veterinary Clinic on Saturday, when her temperature soared over 105 degrees. (I just learned that a cat's normal temperature is around 102.5. Who knew they were so hot-blooded?)

She's only nine weeks old, so she hasn't had any of her shots yet, and other than the fever and the sudden onset of lethargy, she didn't have any other symptoms. We found out that she doesn't have FIV or feline leukemia (hooray), but won't have the rest of her labwork until tomorrow. In the meantime, she's eating, sleeping, taking an antibiotic that smells like bananas (who thought that was a good idea?), moping a little less, and her fever is down to 103. I'm just praying it's not distemper. So, fingers and extra toes crossed...

Finally, I thought I'd share a photo of the fresh crop of llama fleece from our recent shearing. There's about two pounds of Llannie's fleece (at left) and three pounds of Graty's fleece (at right). Since it doesn't need to be washed until after it's spun and was quite clean with limited VM (vegetable matter, lol), there should be very little waste. Hence, lots of yarn and felt this year. You can see I have my work cut out for me!


Honey, You're Never Gonna Wear This...

My parents just got back from a little jaunt to the Southwest so we celebrated Mother's Day a week late. I was really tickled to be able to present the woman who taught me to knit with my first two cable projects, a pair of Irish hiking wristwarmers and Nakiska cabled headband.

I used Lion Brand Wool-Ease Worsted in oxford grey, very pretty for cable. (I also made this headband with the same yarn in black. It is very silly to bother cabling in black, I know. Very silly, you can't see the cables for squat.)

Now I'm working on an Irish hiking scarf using yarn I had leftover from my "Life" character baby blanket. I had SO much yarn left. I'd bought an extra skein, you know, "just in case" -- but it's a nice, soft, washable yarn in a wheat color, fortunately I like it enough for re-use. (Caron Simply Soft in Bone, inexpensive stuff actually, but has a nice sheen without that squeaky acrylic feel.)

Actually, I'd tried knitting up a little tank top with it first, this Asana tank. I had to completely recalculate the pattern for the yarn and my guage, plus, I'm really short-waisted. The sizing actually worked out okay -- EXCEPT, silly me, even though I read the pattern several times, I didn't realize the construction of the sweater involved folding the ALL three of the straps over in the back and fastening them with Velcro.

So by the time I finished all the knitting (and it looked really nice, lemme tell ya!) it dawned on me that I had all this extra strappage in the back. And since I was using a heavier yarn than the pattern called for (hence, a lesson in switching yarns without thinking the pattern through), I had BULKY extra strappage to fold over in the back, and loads of it.

I put the tank on and armed my friend Daniel with safety pins to try to wad up all the extra bandage behind my back. With his hands entwined in inches of bonus knit, dear Dan, ever the paragon of honesty, said, "Honey, you're never going to wear this." (In addition to all the extra sweater back there, I forgot to mention that beige-y neutrals are not good colors for me, either.)

Stubbornly, I sewed the bottom strap together anyway, folding it over on itself in the middle (foregoing the velcro, since there were already three layers of knitting now, heaven forbid I should add an additional layer of stuff to it), creating as small a pouch as I could so it would, uh, lay unobtrusively in the small of my back, where no one would notice it since the rest of the tank had come out so elegantly.

Then I let the sweater lie for a few days, and began knitting the hiking scarf. (Oh yeah, I had still more of the yarn left, lol)

Slowly, I neared the end of the remaining skein of yarn, and my scarf was only about a third of the way finished. I could hear Daniel's voice in the back of my mind. Honey, you're never going to wear...

He was right, and I had to admit it.

Time to frog. My first official frogging of an almost finished project! No matter how lovely the Asana tank looked from the front, I'd never wear that color (I'd only used the yarn because I'd had it, not because I'd wanted to use it -- I am a girl of pathetically little stash), and I'd never be comfortable with the way it was going to finish out with all of the excess in the back. Hence: frog, frog, frog.

But it wasn't so bad, really. The scarf is knitting up beautifully, and I think the yarn would rather be a scarf than a tank anyway.

And oh, I'd post pictures but I loaned my camera to Daniel.


Cat Slays Batman

Since I haven't photographed any of my cabling yet, I humbly substitute funny kitten pic. Knitting coming soon, promise!


Shave and a Haircut...

So yesterday's shearing went well. The boys were very good, with only a minimum of kicking, and no spitting whatsoever. I'd kept them in the barn the previous night, and fortunately the rain let up in the a.m., so no soggy llamas this year. (Last year it poured, and even though we sheared in the barn, they got soaked on they way from one end of the barn to the other, which involved a walk of about twenty yards through the downpour. Yuck!)

Our shearer, Duane, brings his own chute, which is pretty handy for potentially kicky and/or spitty llamas. Plus, llamas often kush down camel-wise when you pick up their feet and particuarly hate having their legs handled (males often fight by attacking each other's legs, and have sensitive scent glands on their hind legs), Hence, the chute is a necessity, since you can't shear a kneeling llama.

You can see that chocolatey Llannie looks a lot like Snuffaluffagus by the end of winter. He's a relatively small guy at about 265-275 lbs., but it's hard to tell under all that fleece! He's also the crankier of the two, constantly spitting at Graty, his younger companion (who, incidentally, snorts--but never spits--back).

Here's Llannie in the chute, ready to go, while Graty looks on. I brought them out together, because when they're separated, Graty hums like a cria (a baby llama). If you've never heard the noise a llama makes, it's pretty funny--a little hummy sighing sound. Kind of odd for a big animal, but it can be pretty sad and plaintive when married with those huge, emotive eyes of theirs.

So he looks a little silly in this after shot, but he needed a pretty extreme trimming this year, because he got into some burrs early last summer. Normally, the fleece would be left much longer on his legs and chest, but all the prickly-stickies had to be trimmed out, leaving him looking a bit like a cross between an alpaca and a big poodle. I think he's still quite handsome, and he'll quickly grow in a new coat of his soft, fine, downy fleece.

Now it's Graty's turn. You can see how long and thick the fleece on his chest and belly are! Even though he was a youngster (and smaller than Llannie) when we brought him home in October 2004, he's now a head taller than his companion and now weighs about 400 lbs.

It's time to trim toenails, and I'm trying it for the first time. Llamas don't have hooves, but two toes with foot pads that look a little like those of a large dog. Their toenails can sometimes grow quickly and will eventually grow inward, pushing their toes apart. This can cause foot and leg problems, so I'm trying to learn how to do the trimming myself. Graty's nails were softened by the wet weather, but still quite thick, dark and waxy. Once I had his feet up he didn't seemed to mind too much, although once he got it in mind to struggle he was really strong!

Not the best picture of his finished 'do, but here's Graty after his haircut. I love how his spots all show through, and it looks like he's wearing orange-striped pantaloons. It's hard to gauge his color here, but his appaloosa fleece spins into a really pretty heathery shade once the cream, beige, and grey blend together.

Now we have lots of fresh fleece, and two llamas ready for warmer weather. (Of course, it's still in the 40s here, but whatever, it's Michigan.) Today I started doing a little hand-carding and hopefully can begin spinning some soon. If you're wondering what it takes to prepare fresh-from-the-llama (or other) fiber for handspinning, here's a quick little video on carding. Yes, it's kind of time-consuming, but it's kind of zen after you get the hang of it.



I got so cable-happy I went on to make this with the yarn left from the wristwrmers. (Yes, will post photos asap)

In other news, we just finished shearing the llamas this morning. They look so dashing (actually, Llannie looks like an alpaca/standard poodle cross, since he had so many burrs in his fleece, and required a more extensive cut, but Graty looks quite handsome) and we can all welcome spring without excess wooliness.

I promise to post pictures of they boys in their winter coats, shearing in-progress, and after pics.

Plus, I can now get to carding and spinning big piles of fresh, fluffy fleece!


What May Flowers Bring

So here's the obligatory pic of how adorable Isis is, and how tolerant Grey Cat is being of her. (Granted, he is sound asleep.)

In other news, I made my first cables today! I was so in awe of Rosalynn's sweater that she sent me 3 patterns she thought would be good to begin cabling with, and I finished a wristwarmer. Here's the link to pattern:

I was too busy photographing cute cats to take a picture; will do when I complete the pair.

Spent another two hours weeding our little garden patch this evening -- this makes day FIVE of digging out copious dandelions, deeply-rooted crabgrass, and various other volunteers in the hopes of making room for eggplant, pickling cucumbers, and the infamous hot chilis we grew last year. I was thrilled to see the tiny rosebushes have roused themselves from winter sleep, though, as did the clematis.

Since I spent 14 years with nothing but a fire escape to grow things on (and nary a houseplant to my name), the garden remains a source of mystery and continual surprise to me. I once killed a cactus, so anything that grows (on purpose, I mean) seems miraculous.

This spring is a bounty of little baby things...not only Isis, at 6 weeks of age, but my week-old chicks (see pic, previous post), plus one of the hens is incubating a half dozen eggs. (However, she did get off the nest for a snack one day and I found her sitting in the wrong nesting box later, the eggs all gone cold. So we'll have to see about that...) Not to mention that Lacey, the llama we are getting this summer, is finally definitely pregnant, due to deliver in the fall. Here she is:

Even the row of asparagus producing about A POUND of fresh shoots daily. How is that even possible? It's like something out of an X-Files alien greenhouse. I pick it all one day, and the next there are 12-inch high stalks again. Weird!

Our two llamas are going to be sheared this Saturday -- now that the days are hitting 70 degrees, they'll be happy without their thick winter coats, and I'll have new fleece to play with. We didn't take pictures last year, but this year I've drafted spouse to photograph the event, so stay tuned for before and after pics of the boys. (They look quite dapper with their new summer dos!)


Good Morning, Farm!

This is the barn where our two llamas, Graty and Llannie, live. Their pasture (out of view) is behind the barn. You can see the chicken house at left.

Turns out the cat bed can be shared. Here is Grey Cat enjoying a nap.

Of course, at the ripe old age of 16, he can sleep almost anywhere.

Shortly after I took the photo, Emma decided she needed to join him. Turns out the bed cat holds two cats after all.

There is a lot of napping at our house. Should this bed now be reknit in a kitten size for Isis (who will outgrow it in a matter of weeks), or in a people size? Would make a dandy couch-throw, methinks...


A New Obsidian Kitten

Welcome Isis, the newest member of our little family.

She was born on March 25th and joined us Tuesday night. She is mostly black, with a white star on her belly and some white eyebrow hairs and white "fun fur" on her legs and forehead. She has extra toes on her front paws, just like her mama. I think cats are working on developing opposable thumbs.

Isis has lots of toys and is looking forward to learning to knit.


New Peeps

Just arrived this morning by post.

Let Sleeping Cats Lie

Here Emma models for you the cat bed I just finished. (In fact, she was sleeping in it before I even got it sewn together.)

Loosely based on the Snowball Bed (yet another SnB book find), the sides wound up so wide I stuffed them with an old pair of sweat pants, a pair of denim shorts, and some socks from the rag bag. Can't say Emma seems to care.

The other fun thing about this project was that I used yarn I found in the sale bin at Michael's--yarn I probably wouldn't have thought to buy for anything else. But hey, at $2 a skein, why not? Plus, a princess like Emma demanded a little sparkle and glam. So I used:
Lion Brand Homespun in Coral Gables (part of 1 skein)
Red Heart Light & Lofty in Glow Multi (used 1 skein, which I bought when I started to ran out of the previous; btw, this is not a bad substitute for LB Homespun)
Bernat Bling Bling in Moulin Rouge (2 x 90-yd skeins)
Moda Dea Eden in Flame (part of one 83-yd skein)
Lion Brand Wool-Ease in Spice (1 skein)

If I'd actually paid attention to the pattern, I would've bought more than one skein of the chunky Wool-Ease, and then the roll around the bed would've been sturdier. (It turned out I only had enough of it to knit the base of the bed.) But, as I said, the cats don't seem to care.

Now I'm thinking those crazy stripes wouldn't have made a bad scarf at all!

In fact, old Grey Cat is telling me right now that he needs to be in my lap as I type. Not sure if this is a compliment (he wants to be with me) or a complaint (Emma is hogging the new bed, and it's not big enough for two). Oh well, he'll have to make do for now, because she looks SO comfortable...


More on the Life Blanket

Btw, I got the seed stitch border idea from the "Big Bad Baby Blanket" in Debbie Stoller's Stitch'n'Bitch (pp. 187-88). I'd never tried knitting a pattern before, but with my short attention span, I was afraid I'd get bored knitting all those rows in the middle plain, lol!

The program used to make the stitch pattern is actually for needlepoint, but worked fine for knitting. It takes an image and converts it into a stitch graph, using your input of gauge/stitch count per inch, project size, etc. (It's called Plastic Canvas Design Studio 2.0)

A former coworker of mine found me (& this lil blog) via knitty -- turns out she's a knitter too! You can check out some of the beautiful work she's done (and her two cats, who, like mine, enjoy helping) at Purly Brites. Such a small world!