Does this cat make me look fat?

Okay – this one’s for the serious Milo fans…

Knitwear model

…or the serious knitting content fans (“Look, ma!  Knitting!”).  I’m very lucky that none of our cats are terribly interested in playing with, eating, or otherwise molesting my knitting.  So here’s Milo, modeling the current status of the “Bee Fields” shawl.

Work it!

And just because I’m geeky enough to want to play with Flickr video for myself, here’s the Tiny Dictator demanding his dinner in a laid-back, yet acrobatic manner:

Sensory overload strikes again

Over on Ravelry, some of our local entrepreneurs organized a Maryland “yarn party” – a mini-festival to give local dyers an opportunity to sell to local crafters.  Super idea.  So super, in fact, that the room rented for the inaugural event was too small for the hordes of people who showed up.  Despite being early, Marietta and I got sensory overload/claustrophobia and I left the event with only two skeins of alpaca laceweight (I have a scarf design knocking around in the back of my skull, asking to be let out in an increasingly less polite and more insistent manner.  This should appease it):

Alpaca laceweight

It’s a lovely blend of what Marietta and I agreed were pure “Jill” colors (why bother fighting it?).  Appropriately (for me, at least), the colorway is called “Special,” and it’s from Spirit Trail Fiberworks.  I would love to get more of this colorway in different yarns, as I saw at least one skein of superwash merino sock yarn in the same colorway that was much darker (silk or silk blend would be particularly interesting.  Mmmm.)

Since Mar and I were going a bit loopy in a crowded room of fiberholics and I needed to get home, we spent some time outside with her son Max so I could use my camera to document his antics.  He’s walking now.  Walking.  Geez.

Max on the go

He’s also still amazingly gregarious and friendly. And now with four whole teeth!

Four whole teeth!

He’s also got his parents’ smart-ass genes in full measure:


Give ’em hell, kid.  Auntie Jill approves.

Remember when…?

Remember when I learned to spin? (Seriously – it’s okay if you don’t.) I have spun lots of fiber since. I have had people try my wheel, I’ve tried different techniques, I’ve skeined and stored yards and yards of handspun. I’ve even given some away.

What I hadn’t done yet is knit with any of it. Daft? Yup.

That is, until this weekend. John had picked out some roving at Dancing Leaf Farm a while ago, and I had dutifully spun it up. I had even gone so far as to wind it, and it sat amongst my “regular” yarn for about a year. Finally, I found the pattern to knit up – something that would suit my still-pretty-beginner-spinner nobbly yarn. Anne Hanson’s “Paris-Roubaix” hat. It was even a perfect theme – John loves cycling, and I’ve watched many a Spring Classic.

This whole project has really made me cultivate “beginner’s mind.” For instance, thank goodness my nobbly handspun pretty well disguises the fact that I really didn’t know what I was doing for the crown decreases. Anyway, here it is.

Paris-Roubaix hat, out of handspun

Now we’ll see if John actually wears it…  it may need a bath with some conditioner to soften it.

Memery by way of Think-Link

Cici was kind enough to want to know what randomness I could come up with in eight easy bites.  Despite promising myself no memes, I realized I had several not-quite blog posts rambling around in my head, as well as some responses to stuff I had read, so I figured I’d come up with eight of them.

1. Weather: It was cold enough this morning that I ran in my new quilted vest purchased from my favorite purveyor of inexpensive workout-wear: Target (it’s also bright pink enough that John burst out with, “Run Barbie, run!”).  I watched my breath puffing in the cold air and thought about how swiftly we have come to this chill, austere point in the year.  I was also grateful for the end of Daylight Savings, since I have a few weeks’ reprieve from running in the dark.  My mom, an afternoon walker, had a simultaneous notion in the opposite direction.  You can’t please everyone.

2. Semantics: How telling is it that the original last sentence of the paragraph above was, “You can’t please anyone?”

3. Knitting: I am simultaneously working on a cozy cashmere vest and a rough-ish wool sweater.  Both items are for me (Mine!  All mine, I tell you!).  Both have their charms, and though they are very different textures, it appears I have entered my Tweed period.

4. Holidays part 1: I am horribly behind in my Christmas shopping.  Normally I am one of those really annoying people who starts Christmas shopping in January.  Aside from a few purchases squirreled away from our vacation this year, I have no idea what I’m doing.  This is a recipe for disaster: panic, overspending, and disappointment (mine, at least) are sure to ensue.

5. Holidays part 2: Having knit for everyone (and I mean everyone) on my gift list last year, almost nobody is getting a handknit gift this year.

6. Television: We are watching the old BBC series, “All Creatures Great and Small” from Netflix.  I remember it being a high treat when I was a kid.  It may be even better now.

7. Family: I am eagerly awaiting my best friend’s baby, who if she doesn’t arrive soon of her own accord is going to garner herself an eviction notice.  I keep getting e-mails from Maria titled, “Still Pregnant.”  This is good news at 4 months.  It is tedious news at 9+ months (and yes, I am aware that pregnancy is measured in weeks and perhaps days and possibly hours at this point – all I know is the kid was due on the 5th.  She’s late, and Auntie Jill is a punctual sort.  Get out here so I can meet you and commence spoiling you, kiddo).

8. Blogging: I am selfishly delighted that Lianne is blogging regularly.  She’s a delight and a wonder to behold, the way she approaches the world with humor, insight, patience, and intelligence.  I only wish that she were coming to visit me on her travels.

You’re supposed to tag eight people at this point, but I shall do the cop-out thing and say tag yourself if you wish to participate.

Sweater Saga – or: Don’t Try This at Home

Like many Interweave Knits subscribers, I fell hard for Jared Flood’s Cobblestone sweater from the Fall issue. I flashed the photo at the husband, he approved (with a few suggested modifications to suit his own style and the intended use), I considered the stash for about a nanosecond and settled on some Beaverslide Dry Goods McTaggart Tweed that had originally been purchased to make a gansey for him. The yarn is quite a bit heavier than the suggested yarn, but John is perennially freezing, so that works out well, all the more so since he wanted to have a good, heavy sweater he can wear while fishing.

Swatched, measured, washed, remeasured, yep, okay: the yarn grows a bit with washing, but washed swatch measures out at this per that, mmmmumbleokay… run numbers through this handy converter, yep, mumble… so if I make the smallest size in the pattern, it should come out to fit him. Cool. (It should be noted that I did the same drill for his red ribbed cardigan last year, which resulted in an admirable garment).

The knitting began – it has already been noted that Milo loved it.

Yep, he still likes the knitting

We had a few fittings, where this knitter felt rather pleased with herself.

One of the final fittings for Cobblestone

Okay – who remembers the line about pride and gravity being a bad mix? Yes, that’s a good show of hands…

Upon the request of the recipient, I brought the neck up to make more of a turtleneck, and threw in an additional short-row at the back for good measure. Finished. John, my favorite blockhead, refused to wear it until it had been duly washed and blocked (well, dried flat). Can anyone see where I’m going with this?

Now, let’s not always see the same hands.

After about 2 days of drying (the McTaggart Tweed is nothing if not thick), I had John try it on again. Remember that bit about the yarn growing when washed? And how I was feeling pretty smug about it fitting so well? Yeah. That. Post-washing, we had a sweater that would perfectly fit my 6’4″ father. For the record, my husband is about 5’11”. John looked like a small boy wearing his big brother’s clothing. The body bagged at the armpits. The sleeves flopped down around his hands.  We shall not dwell upon the shoulders that would have accommodated football pads.

Several words passed through my brain which shall not be set down here, as they are unsuitable for cultivating the ladylike image I have so carefully nurtured in writing this blog. With a sudden rush of blood to the head, I took the sweater, marched upstairs, chucked the offending garment in my front-loading washing machine with a dollop of Eucalan, and set it for hot wash, cold rinse.

Someone revive the knitter in the back. She seems to have fainted dead away.

Since the sweater that emerged needed no delicate handling (for it is… rather dense, and unlikely to stretch), it spent a day or so drying on a rack in front of the fire. Result?

Portrait of a man, a dog, and a finished sweater

It should be noted that I had a secret weapon in Ravelry – someone had tried to make Fuzzy Feet out of McTaggart Tweed, and found that it is not good felting yarn, despite appearances that would lead any reasonable person to believe otherwise.

And now, nothing remains but for me to post a gratuitous Milo picture. The reader is welcome to imagine that he is either crowing in triumph at my unlikely sweater rescue or laughing his fuzzy butt off at me for being so dense throughout an entire month’s worth of sweater knitting.

I wanna ROCK!

Have a lovely Sunday, I hope you enjoyed your extra hour of sleep, dear reader.

It Must be October

Frantically busy? Check.

Crossing as many fingers and toes as would still allow us to get on with normal human activities in order to mystically help the Red Sox? Check.

Hauling out sweaters with glee as the weather is finally chilly? Check.

Making more of them? Check.

Sweater in progress

Gratuitous cute cat photos featuring Milo in unlikely poses? Check.

Cute cat in unlikely pose


How to Ease Back into Real Life After Stitches

Take Monday off and spend Monday evening at Woolwinders with Fiona Ellis, of course. She was as delightful this year as she was last year (and it was great fun to have her in a smaller group, outside the general melee of Stitches). This class was about Celtic knotwork patterns, a subject that has intrigued me since Marie made me a Starmore sweater (yes, I am a very lucky girl with delightful friends who are far too good to me). Truth be told, though, I think I would take a class from Fiona if she was teaching how to crochet a potholder. She’s just that fun, and I’m sure I would learn something intriguing about the history of potholders, because her mind is a heat-seeking missile when it comes to interesting stuff.

So, of course, no photos (because I’m an idiot again and didn’t even bring the point-and-shoot that makes me crazy, let alone the SLR). We did a swatch of a Celtic knotwork pattern and were encouraged to adapt it once we had the pattern set. Being me, I didn’t stray too far from the original design, but brought the two final cables together, seeking a sort of candle-flame effect (but we all agreed I’d really knit the Taj Mahal).

A couple of small funnies before I have to dash: Fiona’s approach to figuring out where one has gone wrong in a pattern is an episode of “CSI: Cable Strand Investigation.”  Her insouciance and British accent, combined with the subject matter, made me suggest making up tee shirts that read, “Fiona told me to get knotted.”  Hmm… where’s the login for that Cafe Press account…

I can show you a photo of that – evidence that yes, in fact, I did learn something:

Fiona Ellis class swatch

And now I REALLY need to get back to reality.

Stitches Weekend Roundup

Thursday evening: Milo gets his first fire in the fireplace. Fall is really here! (FINALLY.)

First fire for Milo

Friday: Wake up at six. Run around like an idiot. Drink coffee. Pack. Load car. On the road by just after eight. In Baltimore by ten (the first ten or so miles only took a half hour… I hate route 270).

Sit for a few minutes congratulating myself that I got to Baltimore Penn Station in time to not make Daisy wait (I hate making people wait – especially when I am picking them up from something. There’s something really anxiety-producing for me about arriving somewhere and having nobody there to meet you – even if you’re sure, really sure they’re on their way. By the same token, I hate thinking that I’m inflicting that kind of agitation on someone else.

Daisy arrived in good order, found me (“I’ll be the one waving like an idiot next to a grey Jetta”), and off we went. Being the good photographer I am, this is the only photograph of The Entire Weekend.

Daisy - on our way to Stitches!

(What can I say? I knew I was going to be hauling fiber – I didn’t feel like hauling a camera also.)

We head over to the Convention Center (Daisy, by the way, either has a touching faith in my knowledge of Baltimore streets, or she’s a very good actress). Taking a deep breath, we plunge in to the hum of Stitches East. Despite the fact that it was Friday and the scrum really hadn’t started to form yet, Daisy had that look in her eye pretty early – you know the one: “Oh. My. God. Colortexturefiberpeoplestuffgoingon…” I noted Kaffe Fassett sitting at a signing (looking a bit dazed himself, poor man), and pointed out Brandon Mably as he whizzed past us. Daisy said, “Oh my god – I’m not even taking in the people.” I told her it was pretty much the same for me the year before. Learning to filter at Stitches takes some practice.

Daisy however, was as game and cheerful a companion as a person could want at Stitches. We were well-matched in many respects: we liked to look at the same things (but gravitate towards different colors – I to my usual green, Daisy to her favorite purple. When you’re selecting a hunting partner for Stitches, it helps to have someone whose color preferences lie at opposite ends of the color wheel). We both hit the blood-sugar wall at the same time (this is key – one would hate to drag an unwilling party away from the fun; but by the same token, one would hate to have a companion growing ever grumpier and grumpier in hypoglycemia’s iron grip). She was resourceful and organized – when the people at the non-selling Malabrigo booth gave us mini-skein samples of laceweight to take away (the first hit is free…), she located an envelope and noted all the Malabrigo-selling booths so we could reconnoiter effectively.

We both hit the wall reasonably early on that first day, and headed off to the hotel to spread our new loot over bedspreads and let our brains spin down a bit. Again, we were nicely matched. We were both tired from a long day, and Daisy had booked a suite hotel with a little kitchenette. I brought what I thought was soup (turned out to be curry – yum anyway) from our freezer and bread I had made the night before. A bottle of wine, some Malabrigo swatching and an episode of Doctor Who on my laptop made for a relaxing, geeky evening in. Daisy finished a Mr. Greenjeans sweater for wearing the next day.

Saturday: Celebrity Extravaganza. Daisy, among her many talents, is a WordPress expert (and has been invaluable help in getting this blog over its initial technological bumps when I transitioned from iBlog), who helped Wendy (yep – that Wendy) when she transitioned her blog from Movable Type. Wendy had graciously invited both of us for breakfast, and after completely forgetting that the Baltimore marathon was being run yesterday (and having to ditch the car further from the waterfront than we had intended), we trekked over to her hotel and I was privy firsthand to the Wendy and L-B show. What a delightful pair. You know how some good friends are really exclusive and you feel like an eavesdropper or interloper when you’re around? Well, Wendy and L-B are absolutely not like that. They’re inclusive and funny and fun. I figured we would have breakfast and then all go our separate ways, but I was lucky to be wrong. We spent our entire day with them. Wendy and I had each other’s respective number in about five minutes, Wendy affirming that yes indeed – that 50%-off Debbie Bliss cashmere at WEBS was in fact green and the lights in the convention center were weird (we were right, Wendy – it’s sage-celery, even though it looked grey in the convention center light), and when Wendy plucked a ball of dark-green quiviut off a shelf and mused about another color to go with it, I handed her a ball of lighter green and suggested knitting them together to get an interesting depth of color (in terms of $/volume, I think that’s my enabling zenith – I believe I can retire now).

Funniest moment? When Wendy from the Yarn Barn saw L-B’s badge and asked if she was “the” L-B as Wendyknits Wendy stood just to the left and behind her. I silently waved and pointed at Wendyknits Wendy until Yarn-Barn Wendy caught my eye, saw Wendyknits Wendy and her mouth flew open. We all agreed afterwards that L-B was officially the celebrity in the group, and Wendy was a vastly successful publicist.

Most staggering moment? Meeting Eunny Jang and hearing her say to me, “I recognize you from Ravelry!” (Note: if you’re going to an event like Stitches and you wear your “Print o’ the Wave” stole, not only will complete strangers say nice things about your work, but you may get the chance to say, “I’m sorry – this is tacky, but I may never have the chance to do this again,” and hand it to Eunny herself. She was gracious, as one would expect. I only feel slightly foolish in retrospect.)

It was over all too soon and I only got us slightly lost getting back to the car and up to the train station. Daisy made her train (which then promptly broke down outside of Philadelphia, getting her back to her family horrifically late, but we had so much fun I don’t think she has any regrets).

Sunday: Stash cataloging, blogging, laundry, and wondering when I’m ever going to knit all the gorgeous stuff I have.

Sorry to subject you to the tour of the inside of my head

I’m just hoping yesterday’s mental peregrinations made sense to somebody.

Because I’m not completely heartless, I shall give you a long-awaited glimpse of that superstar of the animal kingdom, Monsieur Milo leChat. His covetous approach towards my Sea Silk stole was not a one-off, it appears. The current project, John’s “Cobblestone” sweater from the latest IK is also a prime favorite with him (is it the color? Does he just like blue? It is a nice shade for a redhead).

Such a helper

John often terms him a “funny little creature,” and this is very true. He has a very un-cat-like willingness to be moved about – so much so, that when he curled up in the sweater-in-progress and I needed to be elsewhere, he didn’t object when I bundled up project and cat and deposited the whole shebang in the knitting bag.

Can you believe him?

Sweet, no? How about this one – cuter, since it contains 100% more Simon than the other:

Yep, still cute.  But this time, with 100% more Simon

(yes, he’s still wee, our Milo). 

Lest you think Milo is completely slack, he does have his moments of wild activity. For instance, he seems to have inherited John’s passion for soccer. Here he is rooting for the German women’s team:

Milo - rooting for the German women's soccer team

Oi, Milo – you make a better door than a window, fella!

Once Upon a Time…

There was a wee forest creature named Gordon.  He was a Woodin, and he was lost.  Somehow, he had come out of the deep forest and landed on a porch in the suburbs.  He tried to adapt, but sitting in a potted geranium wasn’t the same as climbing the high forest oaks.

Woodin rides the geranium

Without another Woodin, he felt very alone.  Knowing that other Woodins are always attracted by a game, he thought he would cover his eyes and pretend that he was starting a round of Hide-and-Seek.

Woodin playing hide and go seek

“One Mississippi, two Mississippi…”

But he didn’t hear the familiar sound of other Woodins scurrying for a hiding place.  He was still on his own.

“Pssst!  In here!”  Gordon looked in the window of the house, and there was the furry orange face of a tabby kitten.  “When they open the door, scoot in!”

Gordon was slightly wary, he had heard other Woodins discuss the dangerous animals that lived inside and outside of human dwellings.  But he was lonely, and the fuzzy face looked kind.  Taking advantage of an open door, he hurried inside and looked around for his new friend, who was sitting a few feet away, at the top of a sofa.

“It’s okay,” said the kitten.  “I’m teething, but you don’t look very tasty.  I just thought you looked a bit lost out there and might want a cozy place to stay.”

“Are you sure?” asked Gordon.  “I have heard that cats can be cruel.”

“Well, that’s true of anyone,” said the orange tabby.  “But my name is Milo and you are welcome to stay with me until you can find your own people again.  I get fed lots of kibble and have plenty of toys, so I have no need to bite you.”

And so, Gordon hopped on the sofa, and Milo curled his tail around him.

Milo and the Woodin

“Hey,” said Gordon, “Would you mind not sniffing me like that?  It makes me think you want me for dinner, no matter what your previous assurances were.”

Milo and the Woodin

“Sorry,” said Milo.  “I was just thinking you smelled like something familiar – you may want to meet my human mommy.  She may be able to help you find some friends.”

…to be continued…