My Dummy Placemat Pattern

So I’ve moved on from the dishcloth, and worked up a basic placemat pattern. I’m calling it my “Dummy Pattern” partly because it’s so ridiculously easy, and partly because you can drop any design into the middle. I worked it up to match one of the dishcloths I made—everyone is going to hate me come Christmas, I just know it.

Standard placemats are 13 x 18 inches (33 x 46 cm), which is what this worked out to be. I used some mystery yarn I had, a sort of bulky worsted. This mat has a 3” border around a stockinette rectangle, in which you can work a design if you choose.

Dummy Placemat Pattern

Needles: US Size 8
Yarn: 160 yds worsted
Gauge: 16 sts and 23 rows = 4 inches (10 cm)

Cast on 71 sts (this is an odd number because the design I was working had an odd number of sts; CO 72 sts if your design has an even number of sts)

Rows 1-14: Knit across

Row 15 (and all odd rows through Row 69): k12, p47 (or p48 if you CO 72 sts), k12
Row 16 (and all even rows): Knit across

Rows 70-83: Knit across
Bind off loosely; weave in ends and block finished mat

Note: This gives you 14 rows of garter border at top and bottom with 56 rows stockinette (47 or 48 stitches wide) in which to work the pattern of your choosing. Simply center the design part and insert its given directions into the Dummy Pattern above.

Dumping Explorer, Embracing Firefox

Because I can be such a Luddite, I've been fighting with Blogger on my Mac (usually I use Mr. O'Kitten's PC). It looks like all hell on the Mac...real crapola. All scrambled around, columns awry, and this morning Blogger told me cookies weren't enabled (they were) and/or JavaScript was disabled (it wasn't).

So it occurred to me that maybe the problem was that the iMac doesn't like Explorer. (Not that I like it either, but I've been too lazy to change it.)

I download free Firefox, which takes but a few seconds, click back over to Blogger, and now everything is all fine and dandy. I even have the Blogger toolbar (you know the one, the "edit html" mode: bold/ital/insert a link/insert a pic)--which I could never get before on the Mac. I couldn't even get the "preview" mode.

Stupid Microsoft. Stupid Explorer. Stupid Bill Gates. Stupid obscenely rich people. Stupid Blogger. Stupid PMS. Grrrrr.

And Firefox is FREE! I'll let you know how it goes. So far it seems faster, and it looks way nicer.

Humph. Geeez, it's only 6:30 and I'm already ranting. This does not bode well, does it?

Childfree, with Furbabies

I just got my new issue of Bust today (fyi fiber-lovers, Debbie Stoller is the editor). I love this magazine--it's got crafts, interesting interviews, book and music reviews, just lots of fascinating stuff.

Anyway, there's a particularly compelling article "Newborn Free" (by Judy McGuire) about women who choose not to have children. Women who (like me) may--in fact--not even have any desire whatsoever to have children.

I'm 38. About five years ago my biological clock went off. It chimed for all of about two months, then promptly stopped ringing. That was it. I have no more desire to have children than to have all of my teeth extracted with rusty implements and no anesthesia.

Don't get me wrong--I'm not one of those child-hating people, and I greatly admire people who are parents. Frankly, I've no idea how you do it. It seems to me the hardest, longest, most grueling job in the world (even if parents say it's also the best and most rewarding). Hey parents--I give you credit!

Somehow I've just missed out on having the child-bearing urge. And thank goodness...because as a recovering alcoholic and bipolar person, I don't have the greatest genes to pass on. Not to mention that going off my meds for the term of a pregnancy might not be the greatest thing in the world either.

Along these lines, from the Bust article:

"Recent scientific studies have shown that the urge not to procreate might be biological--just like homosexuality or the ability to curl one's tongue. A 1998 study published in the journal Nature Genetics found that female mice lacking a certain gene were lousy moms and inept nest builders."

Think those are the mice that eat their babies? (I shudder to think...)

Ah, well. I'm not trying to get all political about it, I just found the article thought-provoking, and sort of reassuring in that "I guess I'm not the only girl with a broke biological clock" kind of way. (If there's a baby and a kitten in a room, guess which one I'm gonna pick up?)

Although no one would ever say anything about it, sometimes I feel badly that my parents will only have furbabies for grandchildren (I'm an only child). But we do lavish the furry ones with lots of love and attention, and I know--I've always known--that I was never destined to be a people parent (at least to my own birth-babies) in this lifetime.

And that's okay with me and my four-footed family.

Emma Fife Peale

Isis Kyle and Morgan Freeman LeFay

Pepper, Lacey, Graty, and Llannie

Does this girl look like she'd eat her own children? (Really, she just wants to have kittens.)

P.S. Yep, this is the same hen house you saw in yesterday's post.

P.P.S. Funny buttons (for the childfree and/or not easily offended) can be found here.


My New Toy

The hens are very busy laying and with about 18 eggs to sort each day, I finally got an egg scale.

Mr. O'Kitten found it on the eBay. It's nice and antique-y, works fine, and is kind of like playing a little egg game--the arrow goes to a color for each size...woo-hoo!

Did you know that eggs are graded by the ounce? I didn't. They're categorized in six sizes:

Egg Size - Minimum ounces per egg - Minimum ounces per dozen
PeeWee - 1.25 oz. per egg - 15 oz. per dozen
Small - 1.5 oz. per egg - 18 oz. per dozen
Medium - 1.75 oz. per egg - 21 oz. per dozen
Large - 2 oz. per egg - 24 oz. per dozen
Extra Large - 2.25 oz. per egg - 27 oz. per dozen
Jumbo - 2.5 oz. per egg - 30 oz. per dozen

I find this fascinating. (Go ahead and say it--I'm a geek.)

Our hens are laying everything from peewees to jumbos (usually double-yolked -- someone lays one of these almost every day). You can see one of each by the scale in the pic above. (Also fascinating!) Three peewee eggs make a perfect fried egg sandwich.

But mostly they range from 1.5-2 ounces (small-medium). I'm expecting the egg sizes to get a little larger as the pullets grow; they're 28 weeks old now.

Our hens run around the yard and eat hormone- and antibiotic-free locally-milled chicken feed, grass, and lots of garden treats (they especially like pumpkin, zucchini, and apple parings). I guess this makes them free-range in the best sense of the word.

I hesitate to use the term "free-range" because from what I've read commercial poultry farmers are allowed to use that phrase if they simply allow their birds a small access door to the outside (regardless of whether the chickens actually go outdoors or not...still, this is better than the conditions most caged hens are in).

From an interesting article on grass-fed/free-range poultry: "The public, especially in cities but also in the country to a large extent, have no idea how badly the term 'free-range' is abused. It is virtually meaningless as a marketing term. One thing must be understood about chickens: they will not walk very far out of their line of sight; they feed on what they see close to them. They won't go around a see-through fence for water. But commercial poultry farmers, I'm told by many sources, have put little doors at the ends of their huge chicken barns, doors that open onto a bare dirt lot, and by doing so, are able to call their product 'free-range,' whether the chickens ever go outside or not." (By the way, there's nothing scary in this article about cruelty to the birds or anything, it's just very informative--nothing to make you feel guilty or put you off eating chicken, I promise!)

Anyway, we have happy, healthy birds and I get a huge kick out of watching them wander around the yard, mulching up the garden, scrabbling in the leaves, eating bugs and seeds and who knows what else. It still amazes me that they actually eat grass (who knew?) and apparently this helps them lay a healthier egg.

So if you happen to live near someone who raises chickens that you can buy eggs from, or to a farmers' market where you can get fresh eggs, you should...they are so delicious and you've never seen such golden-orange yolks (it's because of the high level of beta-carotene in the farm-fresh eggs).

As I mentioned above, I tend to be a bit skeptical of the "free-range" "uncaged" "organic" and now "lower cholesterol" labeling. But if you see a farm along the road...well, here's a few things I've learned about eggs from hens that wander around the farm eating grass along with their chicken feed. Their eggs have:

• Half the cholesterol of supermarket eggs

• Two to six times the beta-carotene (again, that's why the yolks are so golden-orange)

• About 50% more vitamin E

• An average of four times more Omega-3s than factory eggs

And yes, cats like fresh eggs too...


Ancient Mysteries Revealed

Now that my sister-in-law's baby shower is over (it was today, back in NYC) I can reveal to you what I made a couple weeks back. Yes, more Sugar'n Cream goodies--two bibs and a little washcloth made up of the leftover yarn bits.

The colors are S'n C Cornflower Blue, Sugarbabies Baby Lilac, and a bit of what I think is soft ecru.

Not a spaceship after all (which reminds me, I also finished my Alien Illusion/Space Armada scarf, but didn't photograph it yet)--but a spaceship for Gort is a really cool idea...wonder where he'd go? Hmmm...


That and a Dollar Will Get You...

Lani mentioned that she wanted to do some mindless stockinette knitting since she's had so little time to concentrate lately. I myself have needed mindless mostly-stockinette knitting lately and now I can't stop making these darn washrags. (They're very soft and absorbent though; I've been washing my face with the skully one.)

At left is Skully, v.2. Thought I'd try him in two colors (Sugar'n Cream soft ecru on jute). My first attempt at carrying color across the back of something. Awkward! But it doesn't look too awful on the reverse.

I found many more washcloth patterns here. Just search for "dishcloth" and you'll get 164 results (okay, some of them are pretty awful, but Black Rayne's patterns are in there, and so are some other good ones, like this one, seen the in top photo (center in soft ecru, and at right in jute). I liked the pattern because they're not cutesy hearts, but very simple lace. Would make a nice scarf as well, or detail for a skirt or sweater, maybe, or on stockings...

So all you need for a dishcloth is some cotton yarn, and Sugar'n Cream is maybe $1.35/ball (try eBay if your local megamart doesn't have it). You can get maybe 3 dishcloths (or 2 larger facecloths) out of 2 balls. You really should check out the color scheme on Lily's website. Plus, they have a pattern to make a bath mitt, although I didn't sign up to be a member to get the pattern. (Wonder if I'd get a t-shirt if I did? Doubtful...)

This logo would also be great on a t-shirt. I think we need to campaign Lily to make one.

And if you're sick of this "dishcloths are the new black" craze, there's that Mason-Dixon baby bib pattern. All stockinette, by the way. In fact, I think all the Mason-Dixon patterns are pretty much purl-free; I believe it says somewhere in their book that purling is for fancy folk, or something along those lines. (Me, I like the purl, but whatever. You can indeed make nice things without it, although I was skeptical at first.)

But don't buy the Mason-Dixon book. The baby bibs, much like the warshrags, are very addictive. So easy you take one look at the bib pattern and you have it memorized, and since it only takes one ball of Sugar'n Cream, you just never want to stop making them. And I know absolutely nuthin' about no babies. Nada. Niente.

They should have a 12-step program for this.

"Hi, my name is O'Kitten and I'm a Sugar'n Cream-a-holic. I'm powerless over this cheap cotton yarn and it's making my life unmanageable.

"What, these? Oh, these needles…well, yes, I was planning on using them later. Oh no! You want me to surrender my needles? Maybe I'm not quite ready for this program just yet..."

I think I'm going to turn this pattern into a placemat next. Here it is in warshrag mode (almost finished):

Someone please stop me.

Can't. Stop. Knitting.

But it's helping alleviate my stress and relieve the sad...

Here are the ones I liked if you don't want to go through all 164:

** Blackrayne's batty dishcloth
** Blackrayne's skully dishcloth
** Blackrayne's punkin dishcloth -- ok, he's a little funny, but I like him
** shamrock dishcloth
** fern stitch dishcloth -- simple lace pattern
** dragonfly dishcloth -- well, if you like dragonflies, that is
** flying geese dishcloth -- nice quilt-inspired design
** illusion kitty dishcloth
** Blackrayne's kitty dishcloth
** heart dishcloth -- not a cutesy heart, the one shown above
** apple motif dishcloth -- see work-in-progress above (thanks to Dee for tipping me off to this one)


I got these today. Thank you, Glaistig!


Archangel Blue

Grey Cat
1990 - 2006

To Say Goodbye to a Dear Friend

Grey Cat

Watcher, Friend, Companion, Keeper of the Fort

Grey and a very small Isis

Grey with Morgan

Grey and Emma in the Snowball Bed

Grey testing catnip mice

Group catnap

Yes, you probably noticed that Grey Cat is sleeping in most of these photos. That is because sleeping is pretty much his favorite thing to do, and has been since he was a youngster.

We took to calling him The Napster, since his superpower seemed to be putting any person or creature in proximity to him fast asleep as well.

When I had trouble sleeping, I'd simply curl up with Grey under my arm, listen to his rumbling purr for a few minutes, and I'd soon be out like a light.

As you can see, his narcotic power extends even to kittens.

Grey Cat is the feline mentor who taught me the following:

1. The only two words you really need to know are "Me" and "Now."
2. Always wait at least 15 seconds before responding.
3. When responding, do so as if it's an inconvenience.
4. Keep your priorities in order: Food, Sleep, and Food.
5. If you can't eat it, sleep on it, or play with it, it's not worth getting excited about.
6. You don't have to pout for long--just long enough to make your point.
7. Never let them forget who's really in charge.

Grey Cat is now sixteen and quite elderly, and has grown increasingly ill over the past few weeks. Emma has not left his side for some days.

He has been my constant companion since he and I were both kittens—well, he was very small and I was 21 and just out of college.

This morning (Thursday) he must leave us. We have an appointment with the vet at 11:30.

Please send some warm thoughts and peaceful wishes. I am ridiculously sad.


Cheap'n Creamy Goodness

So now Lily Sugar'n Cream is my new best friend. As you saw in my previous post, I've made my first dishrag (in blackrayne's skully pattern).

I can't show you what else I made with Sugar'n Cream, at least for a little while. Suffice it to say that I did not put it on the cat, nor did I roll eyeballs over it. However, it is creamy and delectable and quite cute. (Ewww! Unwarranted cuteness! Perish the thought.)

Now what I really want is a T-shirt that has the Sugar'n Cream logo on it. Then everyone would know just how cheap and creamy I truly am.