Cats and Works in Progress

cat lying on knitting

Knitting? What knitting? I don’t see any knitting.

I cannot find fault with cats who love wool. Still, I sometimes get frustrated by a certain cat in my life who loves to either lay on my knitting WHILE I’m knitting, climb into one of several knitting baskets I have around my home, or play with my knitting.

cat with my knitting

Oh that. That is OUR knitting.

I share the love and set up cat traps.

Cats love getting inside of anything; mine are typical in that any box left lying around gets climbed into and maybe even slept in. So boxes make good traps. Any box will do.

cat trap

Any box makes a great cat trap.

However, sometimes it’s the wool that is the lure, and boxes won’t do. When it is time to play, how can I fault a creature that loves the same toys as I do?

When all else fails, my cat reminds me of my works-in-progress. I find scenes like this almost every morning. (I tried to leave the photo dark so I can hide how badly I need to vacuum – fail. Stupid flash.)

work in progress on floor

Making room for sleeping

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Knitted Felted Slippers Finished and In Progress

2015-10-10 13.36.25Today is a perfect weekend day. It’s not just rainy, but blustery, with moments of almost-sunshine alternating with torrential downpour. I’m wearing my new turquoise knitted felted slippers while I knit a different felted knitted slipper for the man of the house.

I’m eating a warmed-up leftover pork tamale with homemade taco sauce, while reading All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. What an amazing book. I want to share it with my granddaughter when she is older, so she can see how you can be a scientist AND an artist….

In fitting with today’s weather, tonight’s dinner will be homemade chicken noodle soup with homemade bread, and homemade pear and chocolate scones. Life is oh so good.

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Dishcloths and Frogging

knitted dishcloth

knitted dishcloth

You know you’re OCD when you’re knitting a dishcloth and you frog it 3 times. I mean really, a dishcloth? Who cares?

Apparently, I do. But I finally got it right and it’s almost done. I just need to learn to read (and comprehend what I’m reading.)

At any rate, if you’re like me and you can’t just knit, read, or watch a movie, knitting a dishcloth will keep your hands occupied while your eyes are elsewhere, if it’s a simple enough pattern.

Knit Picks has come to our aid with a year’s worth of free knitting and crochet patterns that will help you bust your cotton yarn stash while keeping your hands busy. Actually, we’re into Year #2 of 53 Weeks of Free Dishcloth Patterns.

Dishcloths are underwhelming until you’ve used a homemade one. I have a daughter in law that can’t get enough of them. I keep a pile of them around for gifts for house guests and for that birthday that creeps up on you before you know it.

If you’re really creative or if the pile seems adequate, you can turn a dishie pattern into a dish towel and voila, a gift set. Need some help finding yarn? Thrift stores are a great place to look for bags of cotton yarn — for once, partial balls are enough to finish your project.

Still looking for yarn? Shop online at Webs and you can search their Closeouts for fiber type (cotton) and get the best deals. Often you only have a couple of colors to choose from but so what? Dishies aren’t fussy.


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Knitting Our Way Towards Revolution

fist holding knitting needles

knitting as a political statement

I’m in the mood for redefining this blog. Why do I want to write about knitting? Why is sharing free knitting patterns important? Why do I knit? Can knitting be revolutionary, and does it need to be?

According to Chris Hedges [], change needs to happen. How? “It’s going to come off the ground, it’s going to come by stepping outside of the mainstream, it’s going to come by articulating a very different vision about how we relate to each other, how we relate to the economic system, and ultimately how we relate to the ecosystem.”

I can accept that definition of the change needed to direct a revolution, and with that definition comes my conviction that art, and knitting in particular, can be revolutionary.

Historically, women sewed directives into quilts made for the Underground Railroad. In literature, women solved murder mysteries by studying a woman’s needlework, inconsistencies being clues…and of course Madame Defarge wreaked revenge on the elite through knitting their names and death sentences into her needlework. In Greek mythology, the Fates spun, measured, and cut thread, symbolizing the creation of lives and the determination of their lengths. We can knit names, messages and slogans in intarsia and lace. The Iraq War saw protesting knitters constructing body count mittens.

During the American Revolution, boycotting British goods led to homespun, handsewn, and handknitted being marks of a patriot. And around the world, peaceful protestors have stood or sat at doorsteps to powerful places knitting. Knitters in Denmark knit a pink cover for a military tank.

Hand crafts have come to define women. In the book The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine, Rozsika Parker equates the separation of women’s crafts from the fine arts as the beginning of not only marginalizing their work, but their lives as well. Men’s work was more important.  I’ve become frustrated when someone close to me asks (repeatedly) “what are you sewing?” and I have to answer, “I’m knitting…” I see now that not even remembering what craft it is I’m practicing seems to trivialize it and, by extension, me. When he observes me knitting and says “ah, I see you’re knitting on my sweater in that beautiful tweed yarn”, I’ll know he appreciates what I do. (Sing that to the tune of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” and dance around in your ruby slippers while your at it.) I’m working on my own revolution at home…

These may seem like insurmountable odds against being taken seriously while doing “women’s work”. My list of what I did today may be long and leave me exhausted, but if it consists of washing dishes and clothes and babies, vacuuming and sweeping, washing windows, baking bread, cooking dinner, and knitting for charity…it’s not as important or difficult or commendable as driving to work and bringing home a paycheck. Even being someone else’s housekeeper and nanny carries more weight than doing it all at home.

Knitters and other artists who want to be taken seriously often sacrifice some of who they are in order to commercialize and commercialize their art. Quantity becomes as or more important than quality. We knitters are fighting to earn a living against products with brand name tags that have been stripped of any relation to how, where, or why they were produced.

There are a few things we knitters can do to become revolutionaries. Think about the points Hedges made: the movement has to come from the bottom of society, not from politicians, presidents, celebrities, or pulpits. Yes, all are encouraged to participate, but unless there is a GROUNDSWELL, it won’t succeed in creating any meaningful change.

How we relate to each other as knitters is revolutionary. We relate in online knitting and reading groups, as members of or visitors to a blog, as members of the queer community, stereotypical grannies, feminists, designers, yarn shop owners, authors, bloggers, pregnant women, yarn bombers, children, DIY enthusiasts, college students, and poor people dependent on an unsteady income from their knitting. All of the above in the same knitting group: chatting in the same online forum, working on the same knit-along projects, reading the same books while we knit, or sitting in a circle in a living room or in a yarn shop.

How we relate to the economic system and the ecosystem is more complex: we exist in it and at the same time outside of it. We raise sheep, process fleeces, spin, dye, knit; shop online for knitting supplies; shop online for ready-to-wear department store clothing; and make our own clothing, household goods, toys, and even pet clothing. We raise and buy organic fibers and we fall in love with a sparkly metallic polyester.

Ultimately, Michele Obama inspired me with her interview as part of the summit on working families in Washington. [] She nailed it when she told the story about how she found her voice; what situation empowered her to speak her mind as to who she was and what she wanted from a job. The point I carried away was that sure, now everything has changed for her and she’s living in the White House — but we all have to find our voices and speak up. It’s time. There needs to be a movement, Michele said.

That’s why it’s cool that she spoke up, as First Lady. That’s why it’s important that you and I speak up. There’s no right way to be, no right words to say. We each have to be genuinely ourselves and speak our hearts. Not some newscaster’s words, not some words we read in a book, but our words.

In the article “Knit and the World Knits With You” the author states, ” String, yarn, baking, whatever. It’s all women’s work, right?” []

Wrong. What we do matters and we aren’t all women: we are women, men, children of all ages and persuasions. Knit in public, so people see first hand your pride in what you do. When they ask you what you’re knitting (or crocheting, if they don’t know the difference), be ready to include words that make your statement. If you’re a gay guy, tell them you’re knitting a one-of-a-kind gift for your boyfriend, or your dog. If you’re a granny, you’re knitting an heirloom blanket that will become a shawl on your granddaughter’s wedding day. Or you’re knitting hats for the homeless; helmet liners for GIs; designing a new pattern by knitting it up in a washcloth first; knitting a pair of wool socks for your grandma who always has cold feet; knitting squares for a yarn bombing project your knitting group is planning; or knitting a toy for a child with cancer. Whatever project you knit, think of it in artistic/charitable/giving terms that will slowly change the world. We’re knitting up peace, joy, care, compassion, laughter, and prayers.

I offer links to free patterns here because turning everything into a commodity for sale really sucks. I don’t want to sell you a rainbow, an idea, a dream, or a laugh. You may find something to buy on these pages, and maybe I’ll get a little if you do. I may grow some of my own food but I still buy seeds and fertilizers, and buy food I can’t grow. I buy yarn and pay for spinning lessons. We all have to live through this transition towards — not self-sufficiency — better cooperation. Live simply, that others may simply live — that sort of thing. Sitting on my deck knitting uses only a little oxygen, leaving you your share. Knit, breathe, enjoy, and join the revolution.

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If they ever make Needles and Artifice into a movie

Christopher Walken knittingFor those of you who haven’t heard, Needles and Artifice is a book by The Ladies of Mischief. It’s an adventurous knitting story laced with Victorian/steampunk knitting patterns. I think the book should be adapted into a screenplay featuring Christopher Walken. He’s a natural.

A bit more about the book: the patterns are influenced by punk but even a slightly conservative grandma such as myself can find designs to love. The Revolution Shrug will find its way onto my needles soon, as will the chemise and bloomers (for bedroom only) and the bed jacket (in silk, of course). I love the brimmed cap, and the details of the overbust corset are too delicious not to knit — picot edge and cables up the front, oh my. How to accentuate the positive! The Gossip Stole will certainly get them talking, exquisite!

If what you’re after is some ideas for a great steampunk Halloween costume, you’ve come to the right place. Check out the Deviation Capelet and the Eccentricity stockings. Oh…and read the story while you’re at it. You’ll never look at knitting quite the same again.

“I certainly hope our trip to Shanghai is smooth from here. One crash landing was quite enough–“

Anna launched across the table and clapped her hand over Kristoff’s mouth, scattering her knitting and her teacup in the process. “Don’t!” she hissed, eyes darting from side to side as she scanned the dirigible’s galley for danger….

So begins the adventure.

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240 Days until Christmas

ugly Christmas sweater

Avoid mistakes like this ugly Christmas sweater.

It’s never too early – plan ahead because, trust me, no one wants a Christmas sweater like the one pictured above. No one. Ok, maybe to wear to an Ugly Christmas Sweater party and be in the running for 1st prize. Then all your hard work will be burned or sent to a thrift store. Where they will sell it as a dart board.

How to begin your Christmas gift knitting – gathering free patterns, of course. I’ve been gathering like crazy, downloading, bookmarking, filing away neatly. I’ll share some of my favorite places to browse:

1. Ravelry – mostly knitting patterns, but some crochet. Here is the place knitting designers can post their free patterns and links to patterns on their websites. There’s also an ample supply of patterns you can purchase. And if you crochet, there are all of the above there for you as well, just not in such abundance. Plenty to keep us all busy forever.

2. Knitting Daily – Sign up and receive access to free knitting patterns from Interweave; you also can subscribe to their email list and get knitting tips, notifications of workshops and all the goings on at Interweave Press, and more. Free knitting patterns and PDFs, knitting books, etc.

3. Paradise Fibers – This is an affiliate link, which, if you use it and ever buy something, it helps incrementally to support my yarn/knitting addiction. No, I’ll never join a 12-Step program, so you don’t need to feel guilty. I love these folks because they’re just folks – this is a family-run business in my home state. They’re quirky and knowledgeable because they do it all, raising animals, making spinning wheels, and just being happy yarn people. Yarn, knitting tools and supplies, spinning supplies, etc.

4. Knit Picks – Another Pacific Northwest yarn and accessories company who’s yarns are well known as reliable standards as well as always having a few delicious surprises. KP operates ethically and responsibly on an international scale while keeping prices reasonable. Knitting yarn and books.

5. Classic Elite – Their newsletter arrives with free patterns, can’t beat that for easy. Their patterns are usually uncomplicated, making them perfect for beginning knitters, and serve as a great springboard for creative experienced knitters. And they have yarn, of course.

6. Tahki Stacy Charles – Stylish and quirky, these patterns don’t always appeal to my more conservative tastes, but I love the accessories – scarves, knitted jewelry, slippers – they take me out of my comfort zone where you never know what inspiration may strike! Yarn and patterns.

7. Quince & Co. – Alright, these patterns are not free, but they are some of my absolute favorites, and the yarn is beautiful too. (See my Knit Kimono where I used Owl yarn from Q & C.) Since knitted gifts need to be fast and beg to be attractive too, these simple basic patterns satisfy both. Yarn and patterns.

8. Still haven’t found what you’re looking for? Then head over to Janice Phelps Williams’s blog. Be sure you’ve got a pot of your favorite beverage and plenty of time to kill, her list is incredible!

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

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How to Knit All Day and Impress the Boss

knitting-cat-badgeWho’s the boss in your family? In other words, who do you need or want to impress with your accomplishments when they come home from work or school? Do you have a hard time saying you sat on the couch all day knitting?

I can hear you already…you finished 6″ on your afghan and you are proud of yourself. Or you knit that pair of booties and a hat for the latest newborn grandchild, or the first of a pair of socks for yourself or Mr.

Unfortunately, Mr. may not be impressed, or you may still feel a bit guilty for having neglected housework or thrown together a meal at the last minute. So I’ve come up with an easy plan for knitting for hours while still getting a lot of other things done. It’s all about:

1. Studying your “flight pattern” in your house and planning efficiently;

2. Having food staples on hand at all times;

3. Having fun with your day.

My house is very small, maybe 1200 sq. feet, so planning my day is super easy. I also don’t have a large family to take care of, it’s just me and my partner. He works part time, so this schedule is for one of his work days.

He has gotten up before me, made coffee, and left the house by the time I get up.

Your Flight Pattern

I go from bed to bathroom, past the laundry area, and back to the bedroom in just a few steps. This is what I can accomplish in my first half hour out of bed:

I dump a load of dirty laundry on the dryer on my way to the shower, tidy up the bathroom (swish around the toilet bowl, wipe the sink and faucet, wipe the mirror, that sort of thing — just one or two things that need a spot clean and can be done quickly) — and put the laundry in the washing machine on the way by. I sort the whites and colored in two different baskets as they become dirty, so no sorting is needed.

I get dressed and make the bed. Ta Da. Look what I did on my way to the coffee maker for my first cup 😉 But even before that coffee, I have a glass of water. Whether you know it or not, you got dehydrated overnight.

Food Staples + Online Favorite Recipes = Easy Meals

Then I sit down at my computer and decide what I’m going to fix for dinner. If anything needs to defrost, I get it out now. Here is my list of “almost always have them all” staples: olive oil, beans, potatoes, pasta, rice, bacon, sausage, Parmigiano cheese, eggs, tomato sauce, garlic, onions, and lemons. With these on hand, I can cook up a storm even during a storm.

I’ve spent some time looking for recipes online, and continue to do so. I bookmark them and sort them according to types of recipes (desserts, casseroles, condiments and sauces, etc.) or by ingredients (chicken, pork, seafood). I rotate them in my mind — we had fish last night and pork the night before, tonight is chicken night — and also the starches/carbs: rice, potatoes, pasta, repeat.

I’ve got my favorite places to visit online so maybe I do a quick search for something new *chocolate cake, Smitten Kitchen* or *quick meal Food Wishes*. I did that for tonight and here’s what I’m making: Black Bean Soup and, thanks to Marie Callender, yummy “just add water” cornbread. I’ll tweak the soup recipe just a bit because I often don’t have exactly what is needed.

While I’m sipping that first cup of coffee, I’m checking my emails and doing my daily 10 minutes of online work. Ten minutes a day earns me $50 a month, which I spend on yarn, of course.

Now off I go to knit for 45 minutes. Why 45? Because it’s good to get up and move for 15 minutes out of every hour. What do I do for those 15 minutes?

Here Comes the Fun

My house is small and open plan, so I can hear the oven timer loud and clear throughout the house. I set the timer for 15 minutes, and in 8 hours I can get these things done, in 15 minute increments. The timer makes it fun – I see how much I can do before the signal goes off that it’s time to knit again. I can be a wiping whirlwind or a dusting diva for 15 minutes. Procrastination is a thing of the past — I can do anything for 15 minutes, if I get to sit down and knit again for 45.

* yoga




*wiping countertops


*emptying the dishwasher

*mix up some No Knead Bread: so easy a 4-yr old can make it!

Don’t forget the laundry in the washer; when I have to go to the bathroom is when I’m passing by and remember to toss it in the dryer. And of course fold it and put it away when it’s dry.

That’s just what I thought of off the top of my head. Maybe there’s a closet you need to clean, maybe there is clutter that needs to be put away, and so on. You can’t vacuum your entire house in 15 minutes? No problem. Do some today, more tomorrow.

As spring approaches, there’s more to do if you have a yard, garden, patio, or balcony. And you can finally wash the outsides of those windows. Don’t be overwhelmed, don’t procrastinate, and by all means still spend most of your time serenely knitting.


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Busting down the stash

There’s nothing like knitting with super bulky yarn on big needles to make that stash fly off the shelves. A skein of super bulky takes up a lot of real estate, but it knits up oh so fast.

I’m knitting a throw rug for the foot of the bed in the master bedroom. I cast on 120 sts. and it’s working out to being about 44″ wide and so far, 16″ long. The width of the rug will lie along the width of the bed.

Here is the pattern I’m using, 2 simple rows that you can remember instantly.

Row 1 (wrong side): Knit across

Row 2: (Slip 1, knit 1) across.

I’m alternating stripes in 4 colors in various widths, being sure to change colors on the same side, an odd row in this case.

Do a small swatch first, both to check your gauge and to see which side you want to be the right/wrong side. The stripes look well defined on my “wrong side”, you may want to switch.

Since I have more white than any other color, I’m making wider white stripes. My stripes are 2, 4, 6, 8, and 14 rows. For each pattern repeat of 50 rows, my smallest amount of yarn is used for 6 rows, the next is 10 rows, then 14 rows, and then 20 rows of white.

I like irregular stripe patterns so I worked out my design on a piece of paper in 10-row sections, plus one 20-row section. So the colors go something like 2-8, 4-6, 2-2-6, 14-2-4, etc.

When I ran out of gray, I started using cranberry instead. I’ll stop when I either run out of colors that match the room, or when the rug is as big as will fit in the space.

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Kimono and Doll Clothing

[I found this post as a draft. Oh my. Forgotten since some time in early October. I’m bad.]

My kimono is done; knit with Owl Yarn from Quince & Co., I can’t tell you how much I love this. The pattern from Vicki Square’s “Knit Komono” was flawless, the yarn I chose was a perfect substitution, and I love the feel, the drape. It’s a bit heavy – those big sleeves take some getting used to and the entire garment is “oversized” by Western standards, but it is lovely. Pictures of me wearing it follow, I promise.

knit kimono

Here it is, the finished kimono

The two American Girl doll garments were also finished on time for the birthday girls, sorry but they left quickly, no chance to take pictures.

And a log cabin baby blanket was started and then abandoned. I just wasn’t clever enough to reconcile the various weights of yarn from my stash. The beauty of a log cabin design is in the perfect geometry of it, and this was so far from perfect, it’s embarrassing. Failures keep one humble.

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