Thursday, October 19, 2017


This all started about a year ago.  Things were calming down in my life after a long spell of crisis.   My daily schedule was starting to look like a normal mom's and I was getting a decent amount of sleep each night.  We had also successfully integrated a found kitten into our family, which already included a dog and another semi-feral cat.  So, why I felt overcome with the need to answer a red alert at the animal shelter is beyond me.

You know, those posts they put on Facebook with the faces of all the animals that will be put down that week if they aren't adopted?  It was one of those that my daughter would share.

I feel for those animals, but I can't respond because I have a responsibility to my own family and current pets.  I mean, we need to be able to care for ourselves adequately before we take on more.  We also already cover most of our furniture, dorm room style, and I rarely sleep through the night without a cat waking me for something.  We didn't really need more strange routines to counteract pet hair/ claws/ behavior.  We also wanted to be free to travel more, as our lives allowed, without too many needy beings left behind.  But there they were.  The doofiest looking eyes staring out of a slightly mangey coat, and I knew I was supposed to get her.

I'm not someone who says "I feel like God wants me to do this" about acquiring things.  I don't see my whims as that important in the scheme of things.  Maybe I'd think that about acts of service or difficult tasks, but not when it comes to just getting stuff.  I could easily see myself thinking, "God does not want me to do this."  I usually hold my own desires at arm's length for a long time, considering and testing my motives for wanting to fulfill them.  But it is as clear to me today as it was then.  I was supposed to do it.

Some perspective on how odd this is: I do love animals, but saving them wasn't high on my list of priorities.  I had just seen the end of my grandfather's life after a long battle with the overwhelming symptoms of dementia.  I was still caring for my grandmother and straining under the responsibility.  I didn't know it then, but she would be joining him soon.  People, people who are part of my soul, were on my mind at this time.  Whether or not I had the fortitude to walk alongside another loved one until the end, was what haunted my thoughts.  Hashing out why meds weren't being delivered on time, talking at great length with her about why this or that treatment was necessary, going to doctors, wondering how I could possibly get supper on the table before 9:00 at night, or just finding myself wasting my free moments of the day staring straight ahead in a stupor- these were a normal day's activities.   Dogs and cats were comic relief, that's all.

But, within a week, Ella (I think they give every other female this name) was in our house as a foster, with a chance of adoption.  When I say in our house, I mean only barely.  She was bouncing off the walls of our house.  It groaned at the studs to contain her.  Good grief, she was 2 and had had a litter of puppies.  How could she be this high energy?  Apparently our old lab, Mo, was unusually chill.  The two relatives whom he constantly tried to mount might beg to differ, though.

Anyway, she came to us having recovered from the parvo that killed all of her litter of pups, but one.  After the shelter got her, that little one soon died and she slowly recovered.  She'd been there for over three months with no prospects of adoption.  She still wasn't spayed, might have hip damage from being hit by a car, and had heart worms to boot.  That was a whole uneccessary ordeal with a vet I don't normally use who didn't explain low cost heart worm treatment very well and didn't inform me that the shelter would handle her spaying.  Needless to say, I cried thinking my husband wouldn't want a shelter dog that was $1000 out of the box.  Why had I felt so sure I was supposed to do this?

We got it sorted out, though.  Heart worm treatment wasn't prohibitive.  The hip, though once hurt, was probably only acting up because she kept jumping in and out of the old claw-foot tub if the bathroom door was left open.  If my husband still had concerns, they were dispelled after a few nights of her curling up in his lap, if a 50 pound dog can do that.

She was actually a very pretty dog, now that her coat was filling in.  She looked, and acted, all chocolate lab, except for a head that revealed she was a German Shepherd mix.  She was also better at communicating than the average dog.  She could distinctly whine, "I'm bored" better than any idle  child.  She continues to crack us up, daily.

But those were difficult months for me.  I devoted all of my free time to getting her used to our cats and disciplining any tendency to race towards them.  She spent a lot of time in a giant cage we set up in our living room.  It was the focal point of our decor for many months.  It's okay, I didn't have time to entertain guests and, like I said, we have mismatched covers over everything anyway.

Walks became a dragging down the Iditarod.  It was exactly like you could expect walking an unsocialized lab to be.  I had to walk each of my dogs separately because their combined pulling force was just too much for me, but exercise was important to get her crazies out for better behavior in the home.  This took up many evenings when I would have been trying to catch up on my rest.  The whole process just took time, to the dismay of visiting relatives.  Pieces of furniture were seen as springboards for her never-ending game of parkour.  I remember a period of a few weeks where the only thing that seemed to calm her constant restlessness was the sound of the t.v.  Every night became a Netflix marathon night.

During the day I kept rolled up newspapers, affectionately called boppers, in every room for swatting if she lunged toward the cats or got too wild.  Every day, we put her on lead and let the cats loose to integrate them for a time.  Instead of focusing on restoring my own physical and mental well-being for the next crisis, I was spending lots of quality time with animals, all of which we had saved from some poor fate.  God really does know what He is doing.

Redemption became the theme.  It was in the background of all of my thoughts, all of my personal doubts and hopes.  Through that whole period of training that wild beast, I was considering the cost of my freedom.  I was watching her grow, but I was growing beneath the surface too.  To quote my sister: Ella was completely comfortable with herself at all times- more than any animal or person I have ever seen.  She was redeemed, and she was owning it.

Our real breakthrough came after she was spayed.  She was doped up for a couple of days, too drugged to scooby-doo all over the place.  Finally, our cats could come and thoroughly inspect her.  From that point forward, everything became easier.  She's not jumping on people, has no desire to bolt through any opened door, and doesn't require a cage at all.  Once she got out of our yard and came right back because we are her people.  She is a true companion animal, the only one of our pets who always loves affection.  She also tested heart worm free a couple of weeks ago.

The icing, in all of this, was last Monday when she graduated from Novice Obedience class and won second place in the "trial."  Yes, this was after a tie for first, in a group of only four dogs, but she did really well.  (Actually, I made a mistake that may have cost her first place.)

I don't now if anyone will even read this far in this post.  It's very pet-centric, but I wanted to have this here for me to remember this redemption-as-therapy that helped me during a difficult time.  I like thinking that I, too, have been redeemed from a poor fate.  And that redemption cost God something.  How will I live my life to own it?

Tonight I will be taking both of my dogs, at the same time, for a peaceful stroll.  No more pulling my shoulder out of place.  No need for The Bopper in my back pocket.  We are now a team, a family.

(on instagram and flickr)

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Giant Sigh of Relief Project

Cumberland is my palate cleanser between sweater projects for the Brooklyn Knitfolk Hipster KAL.  I realize I won't finish both Heritage (below) and Feya before it ends, but the point is that it has motivated me to begin something that's not a Fade, not that I bear the Fade trend any ill will.  I knit Find Your Fade and  I loved wearing it that one cold day.

I am so relieved that Heritage is off the needles.  It was a fantastic knit, but I had yardage and personal gauge issues that meant I almost knit the whole thing twice.  So I was kind of sick of the Heron's Wing colorway by the cast off round.

Pulling out these two skeins of Gynx Yarns (in Charcoal and Lavender Tea) that I've been saving for a two color shawl, was so satisfying.  Even though my knitting time was limited, just knocking out the first stripe section last night erased all the frustrations from my mistakes on the previous pattern.  This was one of those times when people sitting next to you can visibly see the difference knitting makes in your well-being.

Cumberland is the perfect thing to help me switch gears from sweater re-knit mode.  It involves easy lace, stripes, and yarn that I love.  Like Heritage and Buckalope, it is designed by a Ravelry/ Instagram friend whom I love.  I know that it was just released by Appalachian Knits, and so hasn't had time to accumulate a ton of FOs, but I really wanted those stripes and it has less than 30 FOs, so I'm entering it.

The Hipster KAL includes lots of new patterns from new designers, that's part of the charm.  But it has sent me digging through old pattern books from when I first began knitting 15 years ago.  There are a ton of dog-eared pages with great designs on my shelves.  A Ravelry search on them often pulls up nothing, or maybe a bare page with no image.  These were pre-Ravelry and pre-Instagram patterns, back in the days when mamatronic sounded like a good email address and/or username.  There was no constant visual reminder that they existed and needed to be knit, like we have online today.  There was none of this visual fervor that pulls me along, like the sheep I am, to knit what I see all the other knitters around the world knitting right this minute.  But I want to remember these older designs, especially if they were the ones that first inspired me to pick up my needles.

I'm thinking maybe I should interject some of them into my queue, every third project or so.  It would be a "coming full circle" kind of experience..somehow... and freshen things up.

(more on ravelry, instagram, and flickr)

 What is your Giant Sigh of Relief project right now?

Friday, October 6, 2017

Blog Plans vs Planned Obsolescence

It doesn't matter how we stagger our device purchases, they all seem to become outmoded for our needs at the exact same time, every one developing issues that can't be totally addressed without addressing another's issues first.  It's like an obnoxious riddle that someone tells you to feel clever but you can't stay interested long enough to remember the beginning of it by the time it's finished.   So why would you bother trying to solve it?  This leads to a birthday gift of headphones becoming a gift of headphones plus a new phone that allows them to operate correctly.  Apparently we like to go "all out."  It also leads to many nights of googling fixes for our weird damaged program/ storage/ migration problems on our desktop.

I've been trying to squeeze another year out of my Mac but it is running like something the Professor rigged up with Gilligan to pedal as power.  Point is- since my declaration to blog more my son has hogged the computer each night for college admission stuff (that's all good) and then I've been trying  to migrate files from one hard drive to another so I can clear the photos from my phone and get an upgrade.  I love it when my computer tells me the estimated transfer time is "about a day."  Cute.  And then it still doesn't work.  I'm mentally shaking a fist at Apple.  

So here I am typing very gently, and very slowly, so as not to overwhelm my computer and cause the little pinwheel to run for eternity, which is the technological equivalent of rocking back and forth in fetal position.

All of these late nights of googling things have ruined my little bit of craft time.  My Heritage sweater is something from ancient myth.  I add rounds and rounds each night, only to wake up and find I still have the same number of inches to go.

My husband and I did head to Galveston to "get away" for a day, if driving 4 hours and waiting in a ridiculously long ferry line feels like a getaway to you.  I knit and he drives, so yeah, it's a getaway for me.  We ate lots of good food then walked along the beach, then he fell asleep for an hour or so while I took pictures of his open mouth as part of the Galveston skyline and knitted some more.  I don't think he felt better rested, but I'm sure it was nice just to get outdoors because he has been working a lot.  I think I actually see progress on this sweater now.  This is progress despite having my project notes partially consumed by one, or both, of my dogs while I was not around.  Thankfully they left the very most important scrap of the page for me to remember where I was in my increases.

In other important news- not really, unless you know how much we love our animals- our newest dog Ella, most likely the culprit of the digested knitting pattern, was declared heart worm free after one year of treatment.  So she is well!  Doofy, but well!!!

(more on ravelry, flickr, and instagram)

I sound gripey.  Sorry for that, but I am not daunted by the technology woes and I am very relieved about our dog.  I hope something unexpected and wonderful happens to you or those you love today!!!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Saguaro Blossom Hat

The last hat I indulged in during the Any Hat KAL is the Saguaro Blossom Hat by Anne Podlesak.  I found this pattern in her Free Spirit Knits book, during an Interweave sale,  Have you seen the patterns from this book?  I am amazed that this hat pattern qualifies for the Brooklyn Knitfolk Hipster KAL because it is under 30 projects.  It's hard to believe that a hat with such interesting cables, and a beret, no less, wouldn't have tons of finished projects on Ravelry.  And who doesn't love a beret?

I'm looking mighty serious in these photos, but really I was just trying not to close my eyes for every. single. one.  That's why it is so much easier to look downward.  Looking at these, you'd never think I took them that particular day because I had on "lots" of makeup for something I had to attend.  Seriously, how could I feel all painted lady like that when I barely have visible eyebrows?  So weird.

Anyway, I have only made one beret, and it was a plain stockinette pattern.  So this hat was a departure from my usual.  I loved seeing how all of the cables came together at the top.  The only problem I had was keeping a steady gauge while knitting the ribbing.  I had to stop halfway through my knitting and rip back to re-knit it at a tighter gauge, and I still didn't tire of the cables.

Details: I used US size 4 needles for this hat.  You won't have to use so small a needle unless you also have ribbing tension problems.

The yarn is Circus Tonic Handmade's Hullabaloo Aran base in the Antarctic Prion colorway.  I looked up the prion and, yes, it's accurate.  Perusing Hannah's shop is like going bird watching.  I want to google every colorway name.  I loved the delicate addition of blue to this skein.  I thought it was perfect for an intricate cable pattern.  It doesn't distract. You can see the yarn, below, in a bag that also came from Hannah's shop.

I already told you I had issues getting the brim tight enough to fit my shrunken head.  Well, I re-knit the whole hat to fit on size 4s, but after blocking, the ribbing was too big again.  So I did that thing I hate to do.  I picked out the cast on edge of the hat and balled up my yarn as I ripped out all but the first row of the brim.  Working down from there was kind of a mess because I lost track of where my round began and ripped back to a random spot mid-increase round.  But I knew what stitch count I needed to decrease to (since I was knitting down instead of up) and just fudged my way through it.  Since the yarn was already blocked, one more tight knit of the ribbing got a truly good fit.  I could steam block the main body of the hat to be larger if I want, but I probably won't.  Anyway, I love the result.  All of the work was worth it.

The designer, Anne, is also the dyer behind Wooly Wonka Fibers, a shop I've heard of, but not yet tried.  Look at the color combo of this Jane Austen inspired mini set.

As far as Free Spirit Knits goes, there are 4 or 5 more patterns I'd like to make.  I don't know when I would get to them, but the Snowball Hoodie and Santa Fe Wrap are ones I'd like to knit soon.  I keep imagining it knit in colors that are subdued and not at all southwestern inspired.

Today is the last day of the Any Hat KAL.  I'm grateful to Andrea for getting me to think about hats.  They proved a nice stress reliever this month.  I added a few new patterns to my queue because of it too.  Since I'm also entering these in the BKHipsterKAL I thought I'd leave you guys with my best interpretation of a hipster photo.  One that looks like a Diana or Holga lens or else that faded vintage yeshica feel.  But, really, most photographs I see, and those I take, tend to look like they were made with vintage cameras, by way of high tech apps.  Here is my attempt at an extreme.

(more hipster fails on ravelry, instagram, and flickr)

Friday, September 29, 2017

When your pom pom has a life of it's own, you know it's the correct size.

Now, my regular blogging can begin.  Now, that all of the hurricane clean-up/ moving my daughter is finished.  Now that I have completed my first week as a BSF CL (doesn't that sound important?) and feel more confident.  Now that I am back to a semi-normal schedule.  And now that podcasts are the new blogs., I will be regular with this blog.  Let the rambling begin, my friends:

Let me tell you how I soothed my stressed out nerves over the last few weeks.  I joined the Any Hat KAL, hosted by Andrea Jimenez on instagram toward the end of the SSKAL.  My first hat was her design, Buckalope.  I knit one, then I knit another.  This is so my answer to stress in life or stress in knitting.  There is nothing more satisfying than casting on a bulky weight hat over the weekend and having it be finished by Monday.

I've never worked a cabled hat like this, so it kept me interested.  But it's also too quick a project to become boring.  Then there's that sprinkled colorway.  This hat combines a few things I love- knitting hats between exhausting sweater projects, bulky yarn, fun colors, and giant pom poms.  Who cares if there is sweat beading on my upper lip in these photos?!  I love my giant woolly topper.

After finishing both versions of this hat, I realized that Andrea's pattern only has a few FOs logged on Ravelry, which makes this perfect for Brooklyn Knitfolk's Hipster KAL.  I joined the KAL to focus on sweaters or shawls, but have found myself knitting hat after hat.  I might as well include them.  They are also really good patterns that I'd like to see getting more love on Ravelry and Instagram.

I loved Andrea's version of this with the fur pom, but I think my giant, muli-colored yarn pom worked better for a speckled colorway.

Details: I knit this with US size 6 and 7 circulars and Red Sock Blue Sock's Big Squish base, in the Taste the Rainbow colorway.  My husband looked at this, when I began, and actually said that it looked like Skittles.  So, it's aptly named.  Guys, I love Red Sock Blue Sock.  Recently, I realized I've been hoarding their yarn that's in my stash, as if no project was good enough for it.  I will remedy this weird compulsion, beginning with my big Skittles Buckalope.
I also used a bit of Knit Picks Hawthorne Fingering Kettle Dye in Compass.

I followed the pattern completely and loved every second of it.  I didn't think I had enough yarn for a really big topper without adding in a contrasting color, so I threw in some Compass strands.  I love the effect.  Plus the pom pom is so huge I can feel it rolling around up there, independent of my movement.  When you're pom pom has a life of it's own, you know it's the correct size.

Below, you can see my first version of this hat.  It worked up beautifully in two strands of Madelinetosh Pashmina worsted held together, but there wasn't enough yarn in the skein.  I omitted one round and went down to tiny needles, but it's just too small for an adult head.  Bummer, because Fir Wreath is one of my favorite colorways.

Now, I have a few more of Andrea's patterns I want to make.  I really need a Regalo Messy Bun Beanie.  My hair is getting to crazy cat lady length and I want hairdo options in the winter, especially when I run or ride bikes.  I hate using elastics all the time, so clips and a bun are the way to go.

Okay, so the BKHipsterKAL has a secondary challenge going to take the most hipster-esque photo of your finished item.  Tell me, friends, what is a hipster photo?

Is it Holga-like? 

or just different in some way?

or is it total cheese?