April Showers

Life Blanket

I finished the baby blanket I mentioned in a previous post. I've only been knitting since December, so it's my largest project to date. It's based on the Chinese characters above, meaning "life". Also required making pattern for the characters. (Gotta love computers...)

Anyway, I'm very happy with the results. I used inexpensive Caron "Simply Soft" yarn (machine wash and dry, hello!) in bone, a shade which reminded me of rice paper. (Never was much for baby pastels anyway.) Finished blankie (after hand wash/machine dry) measures 32 inches wide by 26 inches high. And very soft!

I kinda wish I'd done the characters in seed stitch, rather than only purl, but live and learn. Here's a detail:

Gotta run, got a baby shower to get to!


Knitting chez Obsidian Kitten

Knit 2, cats 2, purl 2

For more: www.knitty.com


Beg. Row, Pt. 2 -- Fingerless Gloves

Sereknitty72 wrote: "There is a pattern in Holiday Knits by Sara Lucas and Allison Isaacs for "tipless" gloves that looks pretty easy. I say this because I contemplated making them (so that means I read that pattern and deemed the difficulty within my crazy range) but never got around to it...They look cute though and you could probably just knit shorter fingers..."

What I liked about the fingerless gloves (a.k.a. wristwarmers) I found on Knitty was that they are completely fingerless, LOL. Here's the link:

I'm not sure why they're in the "tangy" level of Knitty difficulty (aside from requiring double-pointed needles), except that you have to make a buttonhole in each one (for your thumb).

The pattern has a link to buttonhole directions, and I did learn to make my first buttonholes here, no problemo.

More from Sereknitty: "Also, have you ever looked into knitting with the "Magic Loop" instead of double pointed needles? That's what I use for all of my socks now and it's a pretty humane process..."

You're not the first person who's told me it's a good thing, so I'll have to check it out. Thanks for the tip!

Happy spring and fluffy bunnies,

p.s. Finished the baby blanket last night. It has the Chinese characters for "life" on it. (If anyone actually knows Chinese, you'll have to tell me if I got them right or not, tho it's a little late now.) Promise to post pic as soon as it's washed!


Spring Chickens

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On Knitting: Beginners Row

Since I began knitting in December 2005, I thought I'd post a few thoughts on my first experiences, and mention the first patterns I used, just in case anyone else out there is a newbie like me and might be looking for easy (and I mean EASY easy) patterns to start with. Because I had a bit of a hard time finding things I could make "beyond the rectangle."

Yes, my first project was a scarf. And this is a good first project, no doubt. Also, since I was using the first yarn I'd ever spun, it was pretty much "novelty" yarn (lumps, bumps, thick mostly, but balding occasionally)--and that provided challenge enough for me as a brand-new knitter.

But after I finished the scarf, I wanted to make something I could wear--something that was NOT a scarf! Hence, it had to be something NOT rectangular. However, with my relatively short attention span (and given my frustration and discouragement levels), I knew better than to tackle a sweater, so I decided to make a hat to match my scarf.

It sounded easy enough, but every darn pattern I found called for circular needles! (Or, worse, for circular AND double-pointed needles!) I've since learned these are really no big deal, but for my mere second foray into the knitting world, the thought of such odd contraptions were terrifying. The only knitting I knew involved two long, straight, preferably quite fat needles, with points at only ONE end: nothing to tangle (yarn itself was certainly tangly enough), nothing too skinny, and certainly nothing with extra points or in quantities of three or more.

My first scarf and hat, Alex Zorn's "Hot Head."


"Stitch'n'Bitch: The Knitter's Handbook" to the rescue: Debbie Stoller's guide not only has great how-to's (I finally figured out how to see the difference between knits and purls on p. 54), but I found the perfect easy hat pattern. And it's knitted on STRAIGHT needles!

On pgs. 162-163 you'll find Alex Zorn's "Hot Head" hat. It's a cute "knit 2-purl 2" ribbed hat worked on size US 10.5 needles (and you could make it longer if you wanted to turn it up at the bottom and have a girlier look). It worked up great in my hand-spun yarn (which was starting to improve but still quite home-spun).

I made five of these hats from home-spun llama and sheepswool. You can see a picture above, or read more at:

Anyway, I was able to move on from there to the Kittyville Hat ("Stitch'n'Bitch" pgs. 165-167, or at www.kittyville.com). This was the hat I really wanted to make, because I was dying to have a hat with cat ears! (Yes, it has ears. On top.)

My Kittyville Hat and wristwarmers. We're about to head into our third winter together.

So I plunged in with the circular needles, and it really wasn't that bad. A bit awkward, but not terrible. (Just make sure you don't get circulars LONGER than your project--you can't knit a 22" inch hat on 29" circular needles. I know, because I had to exchange a pair of 29" needles.)

Besides being able to knit in the round on circulars (and knit stockinette without ever having to purl, cool!), you can also knit straight across them. Then, without connecting the yarn in the round, turn them around and knit back across. (I did this by mistake when I started my hat.) I just finished a baby blanket for friends this way. (My biggest project to date, but the blanket will be another post!)

We interrupt this post to show off the baby blanket. In the middle are the Chinese characters for "life"--supposedly.

The trick (besides the circular needles) with the Kittyville Hat was switching to the double pointed needles. You have to do this because the round hat gets smaller at the top--too small to stretch around your 16" needle anymore. But once you've gotten into the swing with the circular gadgetry, the little double pointed ones are basically the same thing (or you can pretend they are). You just knit onto one little chopstick from your circular, then onto the next double-pointed stick, then the next (and maybe the next), then you have your knitting on a little circle (ok, so it's really a triangle or a square) of double-pointed needles instead of the circular one.

As long as you can keep your knitting snug between the double-pointed needles, you'll be fine. I thought you'd be able to see stretch-marks where I knitted from one to the other (especially with stockinette)--but no! Just give the stitch an extra tug when you start the second stitch on each needle.


As a new knitter, the final challenge for me with this pattern was I-cord. I've read that I-cord stands for Idiot Cord, but I guess I'm such an idiot that I couldn't find any written directions that made any sense to me. (I have to complicate everything.) I even made a 6-stitch wide tube about 57 rows long, stitched it closed, and attached it to my hat before I found this fabulous little quicktime video on how to make I-cord. Go here and click "Play Video" --

I love the part where she says, "It's relaxing to knit I-cord," because I was NOT relaxed. But post-video instruction, I frogged my 57-row monstrosity (with relative peace) and made real I-cord. What a relief.

I guess sometimes you just have to be shown.

Anyway, my Kittyville Hat came out great, ears, earflaps and all. Stay tuned and I'll tell you where I found a great (and easy) pattern for fingerless gloves. Maybe I'll even share my pattern for the gloves I designed to match my Kittyville Hat, if anyone is interested.

Ciao for now,

Added 22 October 2008

I still love both the hat patterns mentioned above. Too bad the Alex Zorn hat isn't a free pattern, but the Stitch'n'Bitch book is well worth it for anyone beginning to knit. The fingerless glove pattern I reference is VooDoo Wristwarmers available free at Knitty.com, a pattern which I have made now several dozen times, at least. Here are my initial thoughts on the Voodoo pattern. If you knit, you should definitely make both Knitty and Ravelry (my ravelry name is okitten, say hi!) regular stops during your online travels.

Irish Hiking Scarf and matching Wristwarmers. Do not fear cables!

If you prefer to use only straight needles, here is a really lovely free wristwarmer pattern that is worked flat and then seamed up the sides. It is a good introduction to cables (they really are easy, honest!) although you could also work the pattern without the cables. I made both the scarf and the wristwarmers and love them.

Happy knitting, and feel free to drop me a comment--I'll still get it and would love to hear from you!


An Added Thought

As my spinning teacher says, if we were in a hurry, we'd buy yarn, not spin it. But now that I'm getting the hang of spinning, I find it really relaxing, kind of meditative.

And I love that these are such age-old crafts. It's really beautiful to feel a part of a really, really looooong tradition of crafting and history.

On Spinning and Spindles

Gracey wrote: Hey, I just wanted to say well done on the llama/spinning/knitting thing.. I worked my way a little backwards from you... I've knit forever.. I just decided to teach myself to spin on a drop spindle, and someday I want to own sheep. I spun some llama about a month ago.. I think it had been sitting in someone's attic.. so it was dusty and not too enjoyable... but I think i will give it another go with something clean! But yes, I just wanted to say I enjoyed reading your article emmensly!"

Hey Gracey! Thanks! I learned first on a drop spindle, and I'm totally convinced that's the way to go. I've met several people who tried to learn right on the spinning wheel and got so discouraged with spinning they gave up! The drop spindle is a little slow, but it's portable (and there are such beautiful spindles!).

I'm sure you can wash llama before using it, tho I've never done it. I imagine any gentle fiber wash would work. I know The Spinning Loft (www.spinningloft.us) carries several types of fiber washes. Also, llama fiber will vary widely in texture (just as wool does) from one animal to another. Even one llama will have softer, finer hair in some places, and coarser "guard" hairs in others that can be pulled out before spinning.

Good luck, and great hearing from you!


Guard Llamas & City Cats (in the country)

Elizabeth wrote, "A breeder told us that he has 22 alpacas and two llamas, the llamas protect the alpacas better than dogs from predators apparently."

Llamas are often used as guard animals for alpaca, sheep, goats, and other animals. I've heard stories of people finding dead coyotes in pastures guarded by llamas--apparently the llamas trampled the intruders to death before they were able to approach any of the other livestock!

Pretty wild. Llamas weigh some 300-350 pounds and up, and they are extremely alert and wary. Not shy, like horses, but so fascinated by whatever passes by--deer, dogs, joggers, bicycles, whatever--our two boys stand right at the fence and just stare with fascination at whatever is in view. It's really funny!

She adds, "I also have a dumbass city-girl question: Do you let your cats outside with the chickens and various wildlife? (You can stop laughing now.)"

LOL--okay, no laughing. I do let our city cats out a little in the warm weather, but keep them pretty well supervised, since we live fairly close to the road. Plus, Grey Cat is 16 and doesn't want to do much but lie in the sun anyway.

However, Emma, our crazy tortiseshell, chases whatever is in view--chickens, bugs of any size (like wasps--eek), and took to beating up my parents' young cat last year. Once Emma drew blood she sent my mom into a cat-chasing frenzy with broom held high, and her outdoor privileges were pretty much revoked by summer's end.

I did take the precaution of getting them rabies shots, but neither of them are out long enough (or unattended long enough) to get after any rodents (or kill any chickens, either, lol).

However, our youngest cat, Copernicus, was more of a rover, and did get killed on the road one night last year. This was pretty devastating, and further curtailed outdoor excursions for the other two (and my parents' cat as well). I actually wish I could let them outdoors more, but the 60+ mph traffic on our little two-lane road is too scary for me.

Great luck with your adventure!

re. IndigoMuse

Yay! Someone else discovered llama fiber! LOL
Thanks so much for your response to my article in Knitty. (Btw, if you're reading this and you missed it, go here: http://knitty.com/ISSUEspring06/FEATllamas.html)
Llamas really are SO soft and wonderful, and their fleece is great to spin. And alpacas are pretty cute, too!
Thanks for writing!

for Sereknitty72 re. Goatshair spinning

Hi! Thanks so much for checking out my blog! I was SO psyched Knitty published my article. What a cool menagerie you have!

I've never spun goat hair. I know with llama it works best with carders...I bought mine from The Spinning Loft where I take my lessons (www.spinningloft.us) and they're also available at www.usefullamaitems.com. They run about $75/pair. You use them to get the fibers all laying in the same direction, then you roll the fibers up into sort of a cigar (called a "rolag"). Here's a great how-to (QuickTime video):

Once you have your rolag, you spin right from it, just as you would from roving or any other fiber.

All the best, and happy spinning!


Knit & Spin

Little but the grass is green here in Michigan, but it's warm enough to let the chickens run about outside during the day; they root in the flower beds and scavenge through the dead leaves, turning up moist earth as if their feet were little plows. Do they find worms, grubs, insects waking from winter sleep? I don't know, but they seem happy, and busy, and they are laying eggs again after their molt. (Who knew they stopped laying eggs when they molt? I didn't.)

The llamas are now covered with super-thick winter fleece--I can sink my fingers through several inches of long, deep hair. Hard to believe it will soon be shearing time again. I haven't been spinning lately, just knitting. I learned to work with circular needles then quickly got the hang of double-pointed needles, and my knitting obesssion moved from hats to fingerless gloves, of which I made five pairs. Then I made a purse, and now I'm trying to complete a baby blanket for friends, my first project of any real size or duration.

I never, EVER saw myself knitting, much less spinning or felting...who knew this move to Michigan would prompt a push into the fiber arts for me?

But then again, who ever knows what the universe has planned?